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Woolaston History



The Forest of Dean & Wye Valley's Celts & Romans



Soudley Camp

Soudley Iron Age CampOur picture shows an artist's impression of a typical hill fort and Iron Age enclosure. Close to the Dean Heritage Centre and Soudley Ponds is Soudley Camp which is believed to be an Iron Age promontory fort. It oversees the junction of three valleys right in the heart of the Forest of Dean.  The site consists of an enclosed area roughly triangular in shape and covering around one-eighth of an acre. No evidence has been found of it being used during the medieval period but minor excavations have produced five pieces of Romano-British Severn Valley Ware pottery, and several of iron ore and bloomery slag.

The bloomery process, used from around the 8th century BC, is the original method of producing iron. Operating on a small scale and at relatively low temperatures, it produced a sponge of malleable iron and slag that was then forged by a blacksmith into a wrought iron bar or billet.

 

Little Doward Hill Fort

The Doward is an area in the parish of Whitchurch in south Herefordshire, England, consisting of the hamlets of Little Doward and Great Doward and extensive woodland. It is within the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the border with Monmouthshire, Wales. The area, about 3 miles (4.8 km) north-east of Monmouth, is shrouded in legend and King Arthur's Cave is in the vicinity. Today it contains the Doward Park campsite and several cottages.

The camp consists of an oval enclosure with a rectangular annexe towards the SE. The oval portion is surrounded by a double embankment with a medial ditch, except on the S side where the steep slope made only a single bank necessary. The double embankment turns outward at the NW angle indicating the former existence of an outer enclosure on this side.

Situated above Ganarew, a few miles from Monmouth, as well as appearing to be a Celtic hillfort, it is one of the foremost candidates for the elusive 'Caer Guorthegirn' (City or Fortress of Vortigern). Vortigern, when on the run from St Germanus around AD425, fled into Wales to one of his strongholds. There were several of them, ranging from Gwynedd in the north, Dyfed in the west, to this one, high above a loop of the river Wye. 'Nennius' describes it as being located in the region of Gueneri or Guenessi and 'Gueneri' may have easily been Ganarew.

 

Vortigen, was a 5th century warlord in Britain, a leading ruler among the Britons. His existence is considered likely, though information about him is shrouded in legend. He may have been the "superbus tyrannus" said to have invited Hengist and Horsa to aid him in fighting the Picts and the Scots. Wikipedia

 

Blaize Bailey - An Iron Age Enclosure?

Enclosure at Blaize Bailey

The site of what is believed to be a pre-historic enclosure, is located in Dry Wood. More over-grown today, and apparently never excavated, it is situated behind the Blaize Bailey viewpoint.

1946 aerial photo of Blaize Baileyview from blaize bailey

There appears to be other circular markings below the apparent enclosure.The viewpoint at Blaize Bailey was improved andDry Wood opposite Blaize Bailey walled in the 1970s using stone from the disused Fetter Hill railway bridge. The enclosure, centred on SO 6676 1121, is sub circular in form and approximately 100 metres in diameter. Now covered by brambles and planted with fir, it today displays no immediately visible signs of later occupancy or excavation.

The site was visited in 2002 by staff from Gloucestershire County Council Archaeology Service and again in 2003 (in the company of the National Mapping Programme team and the English Heritage field survey team) when the undergrowth had died down.

Among other observations they noted that It is possible that the northern ditch of the feature visible on the 1946 aerial photograph represents a cross ridge dyke feature, and that the southern branch of the enclosure may be an unconnected lynchet-type feature of unknown origin or date. Although the field evidence suggested that this is more than likely an enclosure, its full form is now obscured by forestry activity.

This is another Forest of Dean site that may yield its secrets one day. We still have much to learn about the Bronze and Iron Age settlements in the area.

Who were our Celtic ancestors?

 The Silures were a powerful and warlike tribe, occupying approximately the counties of Monmouthshire, Breconshire and Glamorganshire of present day South Wales; and parts of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

TRoman Waleshey were a small but hardy race of farmers, hunters and fishermen, with dark complexions and curly hair. Their territory was bordered to the north by the Ordovices; to the east by the Dobunni; and to the west by the Demetae.

Around AD 48 they fiercely resisted Roman conquest with the help of Caratacus (Caradoc), a military leader and prince of the Catuvellauni, who had fled from the east of Britain after his own tribe was defeated. According to local legend, a fierce and bloody battle took place near the hill fort at Symonds Yat.

After that conflict Caratacus escaped across the River Wye to the British Camp on the Doward. This marked the start of a 27 year campaign which carried on even after Caratacus was captured. Ostorius, who was appointed second governor of Roman Britain by the emperor Claudius, announced that the Silurians posed such a danger that they should be either exterminated or transplanted and declared his intention to disarm all the Britons south and east of the rivers Trent and Severn.

His threats only increased the Silures' determination to resist and resulted in a large legionary force, who were occupied in building Roman forts in their territory, being surrounded and attacked. They were only rescued with some difficulty and considerable losses.

After Ostorius' ill-thought out threats to destroy them they began taking Roman prisoners as hostages and distributing them amongst their neighbouring tribes. This had the effect of binding some of them together and creating a new resistance movement.

 

Llanmelin Wood hillfort from the north-east -    click here for Caerwent, Camelot and the magical coming-and-going lake

 

Llanmelin Wood hillfort

With a new Roman Governor, Sextus Julius Frontinus, the Second Augustan Legion moved into the centre of the tribe's territory to a new fortress at Caerleon in ADLlanmelin Wood hillfort 74/75. A port on the banks of the River Usk, just north of the modern city of Newport, was also built so that troops could be landed in the heart of Silures territory. The war-like Silures were finally contained and eventually subdued.

Their original tribal capital is believed to be Llanmelin Wood hillfort, which lies close to the town that the Romans eventually built for them at Caerwent in AD 75. Its Roman name was Venta Silurum, 'Market Town of the Siluresâ' and it became a Romanised town.

An inscription shows that under the Roman Empire it was the capital of the Silures, whose ordo provided local government for the district. Its massive Roman walls still survive, and excavations have revealed a forum, a temple, baths, amphitheatre, shops, and a number of comfortable houses with mosaic floors, etc. In the late 1st century, the Silures were given some nominal independence and responsibility for local administration.

As was standard practice, and revealed by inscriptions, the Romans matched their deities with local Silurian ones. The local deity Ocelus was identified with Mars, the Roman god of war.

Caerwent seems to have continued in use after the Romans had left as a religious centre and the territory of the Silures later became the Welsh Kingdom of Gwent, Brycheiniog, Gwynllwg and Glamorgan.

The Silures had been operating an iron industry in the Forest of Dean for over 200 years. During the occupation period the locals continued to work the mines and smelt ore under the supervision of the invaders. Their multitude of excavations and workings, known as scowles, can still be seen at Puzzlewood and Bream.

The Romans did stimulate an increase in output, and by the second century the Forest of Dean was one of the major iron-producing areas of Britain. The invaders also quarried local stone and sand for their roads and villas, and some coal from outcrops for domestic use.

Our illustration shows artist Alan Sorrel's 1940 impression of Silurian HQ - Llanmelin Iron Age Hillfort near Caerwent, 6 miles west of Chepstow, (300 BC- lst century AD)  Lydney is nearer to Caerwent (13 miles) than it is to Gloucester (14 miles).

 

A 19th century map of Caerwent showing the excavation sites.

 

Lydney is closer in distance to Caerwent (13 miles) than it is to Glevum (Gloucester) (14 miles).

 

Currency Bars Before the arrival of the Romans it appears that the Silurian Celts had no coinage but partly relied on iron currency bars for bartering. Julius Caesar gives us the only contemporary account of coinage in Iron Age Britain. In his 54 BC. report on military campaigns there, he writes: "For money they use either bronze or gold coins or iron ingots of fixed weights". This mention, does not confirm  whether he actually saw the currency he describes but finds of both coins and ingots over the last 150 years tend to substantiate Caesar's report.
The currency bars were usually around 800mm long and 4cm wide. They resembled a half-finished sword with a roughly shaped handle at one end, and slightly hammered at the other.
Currency bars have been found on three sites in the Cotswolds area of Gloucestershire and appear to have been standardised for easy transportation and bartering. The largest group totaling 147 were found while digging a gravel pit at Salmonsbury Camp, Bourton-on-the-Water, in 1860.
At Uley Bury Camp, situated near Dursley, across the other side of the River Severn from Lydney, excavations carried out on the north eastern rampart during the 1970s also found iron currency bars.

 

The Dobunni

Their neighbours, the Dobunni,were a large group of farmers and craftsmen who lived in small villages mainly concentrated in fertile valleys in a part of southwestern Britain. That area today broadly coincides with the English counties of North Somerset, Bristol, and Gloucestershire. dobunni gold stater

Their territory was bordered by the Cornovii and Corieltauvi to the North; the Catuvellauni to the East; the Atrebates and Belgae to the South; and the Silures and Ordovices to the West. The tribe's capital acquired the Roman name of Corinium Dobunnorum, which is today known as Cirencester. Their sculpture has been found at Gloucester, Cirencester, Nettleton, Bath, Wellow, and Aldsworth.

Remnants of several hillforts, thought to have been occupied by the Dobunni can be seen in the Bristol area at Maes Knoll, Clifton Down, Burwalls and Stokeleigh - all overlooking the Avon Gorge. They were were one of the tribes known to issue coins before Roman arrival and the introduction of Roman currency.

Dio Cassius referred to the tribe as "Bodunni", probably a mispelling of the Dobunni.

Southern Britain in 410ADThe Dobunni were incorporated into the Roman Empire in AD 43 but their territory was probably not formed into Roman political units until AD 96-98. The tribal territory was divided into a civitas centred in Cirencester, and the Colonia at Gloucester.  (Wikipedia)

Unlike their neighbours,the Silures, they were not a warlike people and mainly submitted to the Romans even before they reached their lands. Afterwards most of them readily adopted the Romano-British lifestyle.

A part of the Forest at Yorkley is named Bunny Wood and is believed locally to be where some of the Dubonni tribe camped during the military campaign against the Romans.

Our map shows Southern Britain in 410 AD

 

Correction

I should like to point out a couple of points re the above.

Mainly, that the DOBUNNI Tribe was split-North/South - and only the Northern Half aquieseced to Roman Rule. They were led by a Chieftain from another tribe, most likely Catuvellauni.

The Southern half continued to rebel to the point of near extinction, with Worlebury Hill-fort being demolished supposedly by Legion II led by Vespasian.

The other point is that Glevum was originally built and manned by Leg's 14 and detachments of the 20th.....as Tacitus states, the borders were protected by it's camp of Legions.........

Leg 2 moved in later, around AD52, upon the move up to Wroxeter. Prior to this Leg 2 were at Exeter.

The mention of the Dobunni being split is often over-looked, but you will find it mentioned in some history notations.  

Cheers, and thanks for interesting and informative site, particularly the info on the Silures.

Regards, April

 

Roman Gloucester

Glevum (Gloucester) was established around AD 48 as a market centre at an important crossing of the River Severn and near to the Fosse Way, one of the important Roman roads in Britain. Initially, there was a Roman fort established at Kingsholm. Twenty years later, a larger replacement fortress was built on slightly higher ground nearby, centred on Gloucester Cross, and a civilian settlement grew around it. The Roman Legion based here was the Legio II Augusta as they prepared to invade Roman Wales between 66 and 74 AD, later being based at Burrium (Usk) and Isca Augusta (Caerleon) in South Wales.  In AD 97, the whole area was designated a colonia by the Emperor Nerva. A colonia was the residence of retired legionaries and enjoyed the highest status in the Empire. The legionaries were given farmland in the surrounding district and could be called upon as a Roman auxiliary armed force. A large and impressive administrative basilica and forum market-place was built in the town and there were many fine homes with mosaic floors.
Roman Britain was divided into four provinces in the early 4th century. It is most likely that Glevum, as a colony, became the provincial capital of Britannia Secunda, in the same way that colonies at York and Lincoln became capitals of their respective provinces. There is some evidence that at this time Glevum possessed a mint. At its height, Glevum may have had a population of as many as 10,000 people. All the area around Glevum was intensely romanised in the second and third centuries, with a higher than normal distribution of villas, as a result of its suitability for the traditional intensive Roman farming methods. Indeed, some of the best Roman villas in Britain, like Chedworth villa and Woodchester villa (both famous for their roman mosaics), are in the proximity of Glevum.  Wikipedi

The main Roman road was constructed during the first century to connect Caerleon and Gloucester and is believed to have been completed around AD 81. It is also believed that this area was governed from the Roman town
* of Ariconium near Ross-on-Wye, and a road was built from there to a river crossing at Newnham-on-Severn and the port at Lydney. 
* More recent evidence reveals some doubts about Ariconium's status as a town. In earlier times a Dobunni settlement, it was located at Bury Hill in the parish of Weston under Penyard, about 3 miles east of Ross on Wye, it is 350-400ft above sea level and has good views over the hills of Penyard, the Forest of Dean, and the plains of Gloucestershire. It was more likely an estate with a mixed agricultural and industrial economy and probably offered bed and breakfast facilities.
A large iron working site, with massive refuse piles, it covered approximately 100 acres (40 hectares), and has revealed pottery remnants, fibulae (brooches/buckles), figures of lares (household gods), lachrymatories (tear-shaped bottles), lamps, rings and fragments of tessellated pavements. It is recorded that a bronze statue of the goddess Diana from the site was exhibited to the Society of Antiquaries in 1788, but it has since been lost. At least nine pre-Roman British coins have been found there, including one minted by Cunobelin, and others dating from Claudius (AD 41) to Constantinus (AD 340).
A heavy reliance on ironworking appears to have made it especially vulnerable to the economic decline of the latter part of the 4th century and the site seems to have been abandoned shortly after 360 AD.

"The findings of Graham Robb, a biographer and historian, bring into question two millennia of thinking about Iron Age Britain and Europe and the stereotyped image of Celts as barbarous, superstitious tribes. In reality the Druids, the Celt’s scientific and spiritual leaders, were some of the most intellectually advanced thinkers of their age, it is said, who developed the straight roads in the 4th Century BC, hundreds of years before the Italian army marched across the continent.

“They had their own road system on which the Romans later based theirs,” Mr Robb said, adding that the roads were built in Britain from around the 1st Century BC. “It has often been wondered how the Romans managed to build the Fosse Way, which goes from Exeter to Lincoln. They must have known what the finishing point would be, but they didn’t conquer that part of Britain until decades later. How did they manage to do that if they didn’t follow the Celtic road?”

Lydney Park

The Roman temple complex at Lydney Park, situated on a steep bluff overlooking the Severn Estuary, is rectangular, measuring 72m by 54m (80' by 60'), with a central cella measuring 29m by 49.5m (32½' by 55'), and its north-western end is divided into three chambers 6.3m deep. This imposing, Classical style temple building has been interpreted as an incubatio or dormitory for sick pilgrims to sleep and experience a vision of divine presence in their dreams.

 

The site was probably chosen because it offered a clear view of the massive Severn Bore, and its position within an earlier Iron Age hill fort which may have included a Celtic sacred site must also be relevant.

 

<IMG SRC="imgC.jpg" ALT="19th century view from Camp Hill Lydney">

 

Section of a Roman iron ore mine at Lydney Park as drawn by Mortimer Wheeler in the 1930s. Historians now believe that the production of ore from this mining area probably exceeded the amount that could be processed on site. The remainder may have been sent to the local villas at Park Farm and Woolaston where evidence of iron production has been found.

 

Roman remains at Lydney Park from Mortimer Wheeler

Mortimer Wheeler's excavations

<IMG SRC="imgC.jpg" ALT="mortimer wheeler's 1920s excavations at Lydney">

 

The bath-house

 

 

<IMG SRC="imgC.jpg" ALT="a sketch of the Roman Temple at Lydney Park">

Mortimer Wheeler's sketch of how he envisaged the site

Now known as Camp Hill it was popularly called Dwarf's Hill from a notion that the three feet high walls still at that time remaining from the original Roman structures, were the work of fairies, known locally as the little people.

When purchased from the Winter family by Benjamin Bathurst in 1723 the area which had never been ploughed was overgrown with bushes and in the part known locally as Dwarf's Chapel some of the walls were three feet high. During the clearing of the undergrowth many coins and other antiquities were found. The mother of Mrs T Bathurst was fond of scratching the surface and employed small girls to pick up uncovered items and is believed to have sent them to a friend in London.

Roman camps expert Major General Hayman Rooke from Mansfield, Notts (his relative, James Rooke, had married local Bigsweir heiress Jane Catchmay at St Briavels in 1735), who published an account of his digs there in 1779, was allowed to excavate wherever he was inclined.  Other people at this time were also allowed to search and take away their finds. It is believed that it was during this period that what remained of the stone walls were in some places reduced to the foundations and pavements were uprooted.There were not any formal excavations until 1805 when holes dug to plant trees revealed foundations of old walls. An 1879 book lists over 700 coins, extending from Augustus, who died A.D. 14, to Arcadius, who died A.D. 408, was catalogued by Charlotte Bathurst.

The complex was archeologically excavated in the 1920s by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who established that it was built some time after AD 364, with occupation continuing well into the 5th century. It has produced several inscriptions to Nodens. One, on a lead curse tablet, reads: 'DEVO NODENTI SILVIANVS ANILVM PERDEDIT DEMEDIAM PARTEM DONAVIT NODENTI INTER QVIBVS NOMEN SENICIANI NOLLIS PETMITTAS SANITATEM DONEC PERFERA VSQVE TEMPLVM DENTIS'   For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one-half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good-health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens). It is conjectured that this lost ring is the ring of Silvianus found in the 19th century far away from Lydney.

Mosaic at Lydney Park Temple

Floor mosaics uncovered during the 19th century excavations of the temple. According to some 1874 visiting academics, the inscription appears to read "D.A. . . FLAVIUS SENILIS. PR. BEL. EX STEFIBVS POSSVIT O..........ANTE VICTORINO INTER .... ATE."  This apparently translates to "Flavius Senis, set up this temple at a cost defrayed by small money offering, Victorinus being the builder.”

An alternative offered by another later scholar relates -Flavius Senilis is also the author of a famous inscription found by Bathurst and King on a mosaic floor at the temple at Lydney park (above) which reads, "D(eo) N(oenti) T(itus) Flavious Senilis, pr(aepositus) rel(oqiatopmo), ex stipibus possuit o [pus cur]ante Victorio inter[pret]e. 'The god Nodens, Titus Flavious Senilis, officer in charge of the supply-depot of the fleet, laid this pavement out of money offerings; the work being in charge of Victorious, interpreter of the Governor's staff."

Titus Flavius Senilis, the founder of the temple may well have been the owner of the villa next door. In the inscription, he dedicated the temple to the god Nodens. One more recent researcher describes him as 'the Roman Admiral, Flavius Senilis who was based at Lydney Park and in charge of the detachment of military ships kept at Ley Pill.'

Those 1874 Victorian scholars speculated that Victorinus was a name not uncommon among the local Celtic Silures, and 'Interamnate,’ as an adjective of place, thus identifying Victorinus as a local builder - ‘Victorinus the Interamnian, or native of a country between two rivers, the Severn and the Wye,”

Lydney Park was bought in 1723 from the Winter family by Benjamin Bathurst, son of the Cofferer of the Household to Queen Anne, and has remained in the family since then. The house was originally close to the main road, with a large deer park behind it.

 In 1736, Benjamin Bathurst caused the Chepstow Road, which ran past the front of the house, to be diverted about 130m to the southeast, to its present course. A straight linear earthwork to the east of the Old Park site, at first interpreted as a field boundary, may in fact be part of the original course of the Chepstow road.

In 1877 Rev. William Hiley Bathurst built a new house in the centre of the deer park, with views over the River Severn. The old one was demolished, except for part of the stable block, in 1883. The new house, a Tudor-style mansion in rusticated stonework with a castellated tower at one corner, was designed by C. H. Howell.  From 1940 to 1948 it was occupied by a school and Viscount Bledisloe lived at Redhill House, built in the late 19th century on the north-east side of the park. From 1950 Lydney Park was occupied by his son and eventual successor, who created an ornamental garden in a wooded valley northwest of the house.

<IMG SRC="imgC.jpg" ALT="Site Map of Mortimer Wheelers 1920sarchealogical dig">
See our photos of Lydney Roman Excavations as they appear today

 

Tolkien and Noden's Temple at Lydney - Did this ring and Dwarf's Hill inspire Tolkien?

In 1928 Sir Mortimer Wheeler and his wife Tessa, both eminent archaeologists, were commissioned to make a thorough examination of the Lydney Park site of Noden's Temple. Tolkien was later invited there in a professional capacity, being at that time Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, and stayed on a number of occasions in the Bathurst family's main house. He would, a couple of years later, contribute a chapter to the published report for the Society of Antiquaries on the origin and meaning of the name ‘Nodens’, the god to whom the temple complex is dedicated and of whom there is little other record.

The site of Dwarf’s Hill at Lydney Park was riddled with tunnels and open-cast iron mines known as ‘scowles’. The labyrinth of tunnels in the hillside and local legend naming it as a habitat of the 'little people' may have inspired the notion of hole-dwelling hobbits. Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean

There are close similarities with Tolkien's Hobbiton and The Shire, which are said to describe an idealised version of rural England. It certainly seems probable that Tolkien was inspired in some way by the folklore attached to the hill.

Coincidentally the Roman God Noden was known, amongst other things, as the Lord of the Mines, not a far cry from The Lord of the Rings.

From medieval times Lydney residents forgot it had been a Roman settlement and thought the crumbling ruins were the homes of little people, dwarves and hobgoblins and were afraid of that hill.Tolkien would have also probably visited Puzzlewood which was only a few miles away. There in 1848 workmen had moved a block of stone and uncovered three earthenware jars containing over 3000 Roman coins. That ancient site's unique geology with its scowls and caves is today regularly used by film crews and together with nearby Clearwell Caves has been the setting for scenes from Merlin, Harry Potter and Dr Who. silvanus curse

One of the artefacts found at the Lydney Park site in the early 1800s was a curse tablet, an invocation for revenge. It reads: “To the God Nodens. Silvanus has lost a ring. He has [vowed] half its value to Nodens. Amongst all who bear the name of Senicianus, refuse thou to grant health to exist, until he bring back the ring to the Temple of Nodens.”

It seems extraordinary, but what appears to be the same ring had in fact, already been found, but not at Lydney. It was dug up by a farmer in a ploughed field at Silchester, Hampshire, in 1785. Silchester is the site of the large and important Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum.

Now Senicianus had a new inscription written on it: ‘Seniciane vivas in deo’ (Senicianus, may you live in God). The ring's home these days is the Vyne Museum at Basingstoke and there seems very little chance of it being returned to Noden's Temple.

tolkien's ring

Like The One Ring in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the Roman ring had gathered dust in a library for many years. It’s story now brought back to life, the 12g golden ring sits on display at The Vyne.  The “Ring Room” also houses Tolkien memorabilia, and leaves the question as to whether the ancient ring might actually be the very one that inspired Tolkien.

 Silvanus is probably spinning in his grave. And did that thieving devil Senicianus ever realise he would end up as Gollum?

 

Roman Healers at Lydney Park

This small greenish coloured stone stamp from Lydney Park was used for marking semi-solid sticks of eye-ointment (collyria) before they hardened. The dies on the edges of the stamp are engraved with abbreviated Latin inscriptions in reverse. When stamped into the ointment, the impressions could be read correctly. This one records a prescription from oculist Julius Jucundus and three different ways of using it - in drops (dissolved in water), as an ointment mixed with honey, or as a tincture to be applied with a brush.

roman eye treatment prescription

The Lydney Dog.  A curative and healing role for the Lydney temple might also explain the discovery of two possible ex-votos (offerings to a divinity), the bone representation of a woman and a hollow bronze arm.  

In the Roman world dogs were often associated with healing sanctuaries. This fine example from Lydney is a bronze statuette which apparently represents a half-grown wolfhound.

A major sanctuary was built in the fourth century BC at Epidaurus, in Greece. It became one of the major centres for healing in the ancient world. One part of the treatment or ritual was to receive licks from a sacred dog kept at the sanctuary. which they believed could heal with its bacteria-killing saliva.

Here at Lydney, nine representations of dogs were found. Anthropologist and dog historian Mary ElizabethThurston relates "If you had something that ailed you, you went in and saw a priest. He led you into a room full of dogs and you lay on the floor and let the dogs diagnose you by sniffing you and licking different body parts. People claimed miraculous cures by these dogs and the temples were filled with written testimonials about people being cured of blindness, all kinds of tumors…"

At one Roman site near Pompeii, archaeologists unearthed the remains of a dog buried with a child. The dog wore a silver collar that said its name was Delta and that it belonged to Severinus whose life the dog had saved from a wolf.

The Legend of the Holy Grail and Noden's Temple

The quest for The Holy Grail proved to be a lethal obstacle course that killed many of Arthur's knights. Legend says that Galahad and his party of knights discovered and captured The Holy Grail and brought it back to Camelot Castle to Arthur.

The Holy Grail was found in the possession of Anfortas II, the Grail-King, who was relocated to Britain under King Arthur's patronage, and was given the old iron-age hill-fort at Castell Dinas Bran, at Llangollen, in Clwyd, Wales as his estate.

His family, descendants of Joseph of Arimathea, that is, the "Grail-Kings", served as the official "keepers" of the holy relic, which was kept in an old Roman temple that was refurbished to house it, the one at Lydney Park in the Forest of Dean about nine miles north-east of Chepstow in Gloucestershire. It is situated on a hill overlooking the River Severn.

The temple complex was a hybrid of architectural types. Its basic plan was that of a Celto-Roman shrine with a central inner sanctum surrounded by a portico.

The Holy Grail was later returned to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by Helyas "The Swan Knight", epic-hero of the First Crusade 1096-99, the last Grail-King, and, the first Grand-Master of the Knights-Templar, who, upon entering Jerusalem (accompanying his son, Geoffrey of Bouillon, the leader (army-commander) of the First Crusade) placed the Holy Grail himself on the high-altar (1099).

The Holy Grail was taken out of Jerusalem to Acre at the time of Jerusalem's fall to the Muslims either in 1187 and/or 1244, and there remained at Acre until 1291 when it was taken by the Knight-Templar Guillame (III) de Beaujeu to Antioch and entrusted into the care of Tibald de Gaudin, the city's bishop.

The Holy Grail after that disappears from history until 1910 when there was found in the ruins of a church at Antioch, a cup, containing an inner cup, that is thought by able scholars to be the Holy Grail. The inner cup is plain silver, however its container, the outer cup, is exquisitely carved silver with the figures of Christ and His disciples at the "Last Supper". The outer cup was obviously made to hold the inner cup, as a sacred, precious object older than itself. The artistic style and workmanship is considered to be of first century date.

The Holy Grail, now called "The Chalice of Antioch", eventually came into the possession of the Cloister's Museum in New York City and is privately owned today by the Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY

from: "The British Chronicles" by David Hughes - Heritage Books 2007



The Castle on Little Camp Hill at Lydney Park

 

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The Lydney Castle site on Little Camp Hill. In the top left corner is the Roman Temple site on Camp Hill -Googlemaps

The site on Little Camp Hill at Lydney Park was partially excavated by D A Casey in 1929-30. He located what is believed to be a Norman castle, with inner and outer courts and a rectangular keep. The inner court is surrounded by a wall, while the outer court has a rock cut ditch and bank on one side and the natural slope of the hill on the other. There is no documentary evidence for the date of the castle's construction, but he, considering its type and construction, dated it to between 1100 and 1189 AD. Although there is no direct record of its ownership, in the Domesday Survey it is recorded that William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, made a manor at Lydney. D A Casey relates that this manor almost certainly included Little Camp Hill.

The Romans at Woolaston

The main road through Woolaston runs from Gloucester to Chepstow and follows the course of the Roman road from Gloucester to Caerleon for much of its route and has been in use at least since the 10th century. The crossing at the Piccadilly brook and the Black brook at Twyford were recorded in 956. South-west of Brookend the Roman road is believed to have diverged northward past Gumstalls and the church before rejoining the modern road north-east of Stroat. A hoard of 250 Roman coins from AD 313 to AD 346 was discovered near High Woolaston Farm in 1887-8.

The Chesters Roman villa is situated on the banks of the Severn Estuary halfway between Lydney and Chepstow. There were a series of excavations between 1932-35 by C.Scott Garrett and by M G Fulford and J R L Allen (1987-91) mainly in the Lower Chesters field south of the railway. They revealed that the villa lies within a walled and ditched enclosure which includes a courtyard with a residential area on the east side, a bath block to the south, and a sub-divided rectangular building on the northern end of the west

 wall. It is believed to have been occupied by a Roman ironmaster who was also involved in farming and had connections with shipping.

It was apparently built in the first half of the 2nd century, destroyed and then rebuilt around c.320. It then remained occupied until the 5th century. Our picture below shows a 1934 sketch of the villa site by Dr Scott Garrett.

The harbour at neighbouring Lay Pill was apparently regularly used and the villa is thought to have had a lighthouse to guide vessels past the nearby Guscar Rocks.

Ironworking debris was found near the villa in the 1980s, and tap slag and charcoal were found in the same field as the villa during fieldwalking. Slag heaps were located to the south of the building. At the time of the excavations, remains of a timber-framed building were discovered containing evidence of two iron-smelting furnaces. The coal mining industry was also probably established here on a small scale as minor quantities were also found.

The main road through Woolaston runs from Gloucester to Chepstow and follows the course of the Roman road from Gloucester to Caerleon for much of its route and has been in use at least since the 10th century.

The crossing at the Piccadilly brook and the Black brook at Twyford were recorded in 956. South-west of Brookend, the Roman road is believed to have diverged northward past Gumstalls and the church before rejoining the modern road north-east of Stroat. A hoard of 250 Roman coins from AD 313 to AD 346 was discovered near High Woolaston Farm in 1887-8.


Woolaston Quay and Grange Pill from the air
Our pictures show the Chesters Roman villa site from the air, and indicated with a pointer on our Google view. The diagonal line across is the Gloucester to South Wales railway and the buildings to the left are at Woolaston Grange.

Tessellated pavements decorated with white, red, and light and dark blue squares.

 

Plan of Chesters Roman Villa in the Forest of Dean
                         The "Light Tower" on the south-west corner of the boundary wall.  That Creek gateway was 14ft 9 inches across.

 

Base of the "Light Tower" at the south-west corner of the boundary wall. The wall was 2ft 6 inches wide.

 

Under view of two of the mill-stones (diameter 31.5 inches). Thickness about 5 inches. They were used as paving material on a 9 ft wide roughly flagged pavement.     Photos by  C.Scott Garrett 1934

 

 

Local Roman Villas

Roman Villas in the Forest of Dean

In addition to the villa at Woolaston, two other Roman villas were built along this 10 km section of the Severn Estuary at an earlier time than the Temple at Lydney Park.

Our first Google image shows the site to the west, Boughspring Roman Villa, in an area between Stroat and Tidenham, which was excavated in 1969 and 1985. The dig report concluded that the villa may have consisted of three buildings and dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Cooking ware, pottery, tesserae and tegulae were all recovered. Work carried out in 1985 concluded that the villa measured 29.5 by 13 metres and was divided into 6 or 7 rooms, one of which was probably a bath house.

Our second view shows the location, At Lydney Meads, and in an area opposite the entrance to Taurus Crafts, of the remains of a Roman five buildings site at Park Farm, Aylburton which was excavated by Dr Scott-Garrett between 1955 and 1960.

He concluded that the villa may have consisted of five buildings that were dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Cooking ware, pottery, tesserae and tegulae were all recovered.

The site was probably connected to the iron production at Bream and Coleford by an existing track that ran from Bream Grove, through Lydney Park, past the Celtic hill-fort, and across the coastal highway.

In his report, Dr. Scott Garrett noted the existence of a 'wharf wall' .

It is a possibility that some of the wealth generated here, from the iron industry, may have financed the building of nearby Noden's Temple.

One can only speculate that the above scene, recreated by Colchester museum, may be similar to that on the creek near Lydney's Park Farm villa in the 2nd to 4th century.

We can only hope that a future, much needed professional excavation of the site, will give us a clearer picture.

The Park Farm, Lydney site by Maurice Fitchett and based on Scott-Garrett's excavations TBA collection

 

 

Roman Coleford and the bulldozed High Nash Temple site

Over the last 30 years it has been revealed how busy the iron producing area at Lambsquay Woods between Clearwell and the  Cinder Hill/High Nash area of Coleford really was.

In the last couple of centuries Roman coin hoards have been recorded at nearby Tufthorn, Perry Grove, and High Nash. In 1849 a hoard of around 3000 mid 3rd century coins in jars was found in a worked-out scowle at Perry Grove. The hoard from Tufthorn in 1852 contained 'several thousands' and one hoardfrom the garden of Mr and Mrs Hyde of High Nash in 1936 also contained a large quantity of 3rd and 4th century bronze coins.

 

The Perry Grove Roman Coin Hoard. Probably intended as wages for the local iron workers and charcoal producers, this hoard was discovered in 1848.

From Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Transactions -  'We read In 1848 there was a very large " find " of coins near Coleford, which, fortunately, fell into the hands of the late H. H. Fryer, Esq., an enthusiastic and accurate antiquary, and he has left us the following interesting account of its discovery. This is the more valuable, as so few "finds" have been described as to the exact situation of their original place of deposit.'

"Some months ago, in raising blocks of siliceous grit-stone from an edge of rock in a small oak copse called Perry Grove, about a mile from Coleford, in Dean Forest, the workmen discovered, in a cavity of the rock, three globular earthern jars containing upwards of 3,000 Roman coins.

There was no indication of the deposit being in a place of sepulture, but the cavity occuring in the face of the escarpment of the rock against which rested two projecting blocks, a few feet apart, it was capable of being converted into a rude hut by laying trunks of trees across, covered with brushwood and turf.

The earthern jars, were without ornament, two of them being of coarse red ware, and the other made of a greyish clay, washed with a dark coloured glaze.

A considerable number of these coins are of the usurper Postumus, and some appear to be cast of a mixed metal, strongly plated with silver. The coins of Valerian and his Empress appear to have been cast, but those of Gallienus and his Empress are stamped by a die, and while some of his dies are well executed, especially those of mixed metal, others of copper are of the rudest and most barbarous style ; a few of the coins are plated with tin."

Henry Hooper Fryer (1800-1870) was a Coleford solicitor. For some time he lived at Lambsquay House, (now Lambsquay House Hotel), very close to the discovery.

Very near this spot, another hoard was discovered a year or two later (around 1852) at nearby Tufthorn. It was reported that several thousands of Roman coins were found in an earthen jar. Unfortunately no record was made at the time, and they were apparently dispersed among a number of collectors.

One " find " has been described entire, before it was dispersed, and a detailed account of all the legible coins in it, is given at the end of this paper.

It was discovered in 1852, near the Park End iron works, on the Coleford Road, and when found the coins were enclosed in a jar of common grey Poman pottery, which was broken by the finders to get at its contents. The coins range from Julia Domna, wife of Scptimius Severus, who died at York, in a.d. 211, to Allectus the Usurper, who was slain a.d. 296, from which we may safely conclude that the mines in the Forest of Dean were worked by the Romans till the close of the third century.

Some of these coins are of considerable rarity, notably, those of Marius with the reverse of two hands joined, and the legend, CONCORDIA MILITVM. This usurper only reigned a few days. He assumed the purple in Gaul, but was speedily assassinated, and as his money is found in many places and with several different reverses, we may conclude it was struck before he was proclaimed emperor.

The coins of Quintillus arc not common, and it is remarkable that nine different types of this usurper occur in this find. He was proclaimed emperor by the troops under his command, near Aquilia, a.d. 270, but only reigned 17 days.

The only silver coin amongst them is a rare Denarius of Julia Domna. Two of the rarest coins are in the cabinet of Robert Fryer, Esq.,(the son of Henry Hooper Fryer) from Coleford.  

Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Transactions

 

 

It was only in 1985, when the Mushet Industrial Park was being developed, that large quantities of Romano-British pottery sherds were recovered from contractor's spoil heaps.

A rescue excavation was quickly mounted in an attempt to discover the nature of the site and any structural remains.

The director appointed for its supervision was local archaeologist and author Bryan Walters.

He reported that the excavated area proved to be part of a late Iron Age and Romano-Celtic temple/sanctuary complex associated with the nearby iron working settlement.

 


Looking northwards - an artist's impression of how the Coleford Temple may have looked in the 3rd century.

Drawn by D.Thomas from a reconstruction by G.Collier

The site is situated 700 metres south and above Coleford town centre. It is not far below,and east, of an ancient ridgeway route running north to south between the Wye at Symond's Yat and the Severn at Lydney.

200 metres below the site is the Coller brook and on its west end boundary is a disused well. 1 to 1.5 km to the south are the ancient Perrygrove and Clearwell iron mines and the Stock Farm villa site. Below ground at Cinder Hill and Coleford are the remains of massive iron ore slag and cinder deposits apparently accumulated during the period between the early Iron Age to the 16th century.

The main structural remains identified were a rectangular temple with western apse, and an associated building opposite its eastern entrance. It was constructed no earlier than very late in the 3rd century AD and more probably in the early 4th century. Prior to excavation its east-end entrance had been destroyed during the construction of Old Station Way.

Also in the path of the bulldozers was the remainder of the Temple and its apse which was laying at the entrance of what is now Roman Way.

Fortunately, before the site's destruction, it was possible to record the foundation trenches of cella, apse and narthex as well as recovering some dating evidence.

The width of the building was 14.6 metres. The width of the apse was 9 metres and its depth exactly half of its width,4.5 metres. The inner sanctuary was 14.6 metres by 6 metres. Only 10 metres of the length of the temple remained intact, the rest having been destroyed earlier during road and footpath bull-dozing.

 

Roman Way, at the top of our map, is where the Celtic warrior's burial site was located, only 100 metres NNW from the Roman temple. On the right is Perrygrove Wood where the Roman coin hoard was found in 1848, and on the second map, and to the left of Little Eddie's Field Wood, is the large chicken shed of Stock Farm, to the left of which lies the Roman villa site.

 

A second building stood opposite the East side temple entrance and now lies buried between Old Station Way and Paterson's factory.

It measured approximately 4.6 metres by 6.5 metres. Both of its east and west ends had been damaged by pipeline and foundation trenches. There were possibly several phases of occupation as pottery rims of 2nd, 3rd and 4th century were found sealed beneath the latest cobbled surface which was dated as mid 4th century after a coin minted around 335AD was found in the hard core.

Enough stone was in place in the Temple's foundation trenches to suggest a base of stones upon which a timber framed building was constructed. Many hundreds of nails were recorded along with a number of T-shape holdfast staples. There were some signs of burning within, and immediately surrounding the rectangle. The floor of the apse and inner sanctuary was of green Pennant sandstone.

The narthex probably had a cobbled sandstone surface. The area outside the temple and to the north of the entrance,was also sandstone cobbled, and the area to the south was surfaced with bloomery slag. Large quantities of nails, found in the cobbled surface, suggest a timber covering.

One unusual thick-walled, round-based bowl was found within the inner temple sanctuary.It contained many holes in the upper half but not in the base, therefore it was not intended as any form of straining bowl.

It must have been suspended or placed within a circular iron frame. Around and below the outer rim was a chevron incised decoration. Made from local clays, it has been interpreted as an incense bowl or receptacle for burning perfumed sticks.

It was later recorded that the pottery excavated was dominated by the remains of Oxfordshire type beakers and flagons, many apparently made from local clays. Towards the West end of the building and in the centre was a shallow pit. The doorway entrance was probably on the east side.

 

Coleford's Celtic Warrior Burial

During the first stages of the construction of Roman Way, Coleford, a Celtic warrior's battle equipment was found buried about 100 metres NNW of the temple.

Believed to be 1st century AD and pre-Roman, it comprised of the remains of a circular shield in the form of a round, iron shield boss, and three milled-edge bronze rings. One had a red enamelled stud of late La Tene style, and apparently part of a warrior's baldric, or sword harness. These would originally have been laid on the shield. Alongside was a metre-long iron sword. It had been bent double in a ritual killing of its power.

50 metres from the burial a small quantity of late Iron Age pottery rims and sherds were found. It is unfortunate that, because of the limited time frame allowed for the site's 1985 excavation, all carried out by volunteers with no public funding, out of the 17,000 or so square metres available for investigation, less than 1,000 square metres were excavated. It is a possibility that some early post-hole and ditch features remain, but, sadly, most of this very important site has now been destroyed by roads, pipelines and building foundations.

The Wandsworth Shield, displayed here because of possible similarities with that from Coleford, is a circular bronze Iron Age shield boss or mount decorated in La Tène style.

It was found in the RiverThames at Wandsworth in London sometime before 1849. Another incomplete bronze shield mount, sometimes called the Wandsworth Mask Shield was found at the same time. Both shield mounts are now held at the British Museum.

The bold repoussé decoration on the Wandsworth Shield, comprising two birds with outstretched wings and long trailing tail feathers, has led Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford, to consider the shield to be "among the masterpieces of British Celtic art".

 

Stock Farm Villa at nearby Clearwell. This local iron industry was most probably administered from a villa only 2km south of Coleford, at Stock Farm, Clearwell and situated between the Clearwell iron mines and those at Perry Grove. It is clearly an important site, being as yet, the only Romano-British structure discovered so closely associated with a Roman iron-working area.

It was first indicated by crop marks on aerial photographs during the summer of 1976 and its extent and form was confirmed by geophysical survey and small-scale excavations between 1985 and 2004. In the first stages a 2 metre square of turf was rolled back to reveal the top of a sandstone wall 25cm below the surface.

The building is orientated roughly west to east, measuring at least 22m in length and 12m wide, and divided internally into at least nine rooms. Some 30m to the south is a second possible building which measures approximately 12m by 10m.

Small confirmatory excavations produced pottery of the 2nd to 4th centuries ranging from 2nd century Central Gaulish Samian to 4th century Oxfordshire and Nene Valley colour-coated table ware. The 1985 investigation also uncovered sandstone masonry, gullies, pits and possible post holes.

The villa was  situated 100m west of the ore outcrops, not far from the present-day Clearwell Caves complex and on flat ground, in an elevated position, with views into South Wales as far as the Brecon Beacons. 

English Heritage in 2006 identified the cropmarks of a number of possible small buildings to the south, east and south-east, as well as possible field boundaries or walls indicating a larger complex. Analysis of the pottery recovered during the 1985 excavation by the Forest of Dean Local History Society indicates that the site was occupied from the second century AD to at least the fourth century. The same excavation also revealed signs of animal husbandry. Trial trenches in 1996 also found some evidence of late Iron Age activity on the site.

 

Local Iron Production

Our Celtic Silurian ancestors most probably originally brought the art of iron-making to Britain. They found ore and timber in abundance in the Forest of Dean and began to apply their skills. Julius Caesar states that when he visited these Islands he found the early Britons using iron bars for coin, and there was abundant proof that the Romans produced iron in the Forest in immense quantities. Their legacy, the numerous scowles at Puzzlewood, a part of Lambsquay Wood, are today a big attraction, both to tourists and film-makers.

Hundreds of Coleford men must have been employed in the Forest iron and charcoal industry at that time, for huge quantities of furnace cinders were left by them, scattered over a very wide area.

Most of those bloomery cinders contained a large percentage of iron, thus testifying to the crude method employed in the initial extraction. It has been estimated that only 10-20 per cent of the available iron was extracted from the ore by this method.

It was a simple process used from the Iron Age to medieval times where iron ore and charcoal were placed in a small furnace that was typically about 3ft in diameter and 3ft high, and constructed of clay or stone with a clay lining.

Air was forced into the flames by bellows worked by hand or foot. This kept the charcoal burning but the air supply was kept low to make sure that the charcoal did not burn fully. The effect of this was to produce carbon monoxide gas and, as this passed over the iron ore, it removed the oxygen becoming carbon dioxide in the process. The molten iron separated from the rock it was in and the latter flowed to the bottom of the furnace and out through a hole to a hollow in the ground where it cooled and set to form slag. The iron was left behind in the furnace and, because it was dispersed throughout the mass of ore, it remained as a sponge-like lump called the bloom, about the size of a football.

This labour intensive method required around 1 ton of charcoal to each ton of ore. Approximately 10 tons of coppiced wood resulted in the production of 2.5 tons of charcoal and one ton of iron ore was processed to produce 75Kg of iron suitable for forging.

 

In the 17th century, when the forging of iron was much more sophisticated with the use of blast furnaces, there was now a demand for the bloomery cinders left in gigantic heaps all over the area by those Roman and Medieval iron-workers. The local names of Cinderford, and Cinder Hill at Coleford are their legacies.

On June 20th, 1662, Daniel Pepys' diary records: "Up by 4 or 5 o'clock and to the office and there drew up the Agreement between the King and Sir John Winter about the Forest of Dean .... I found him a very worthy man and good discourse most of which was concerning the Forest of Dean the timber there and the Ironworks with their great antiquity and the vast heaps of cinders which they find and are now of great value being necessary for the making of Iron at this day and without which they cannot work." 

In 1677 Andrew Yarranton, in his book, "for the Improvement of England by Sea and Land", wrote,"the ironstone and Roman cinders in the Forest of Dean - that metal is of a most gentle, pliable, soft nature, easily and quickly to be wrought into manufacture, over what any other iron is, and it is the best in the known world: and the greatest part of this sow iron is sent up Severn to the forges in Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Cheshire, and there it's made into bar iron: and because of its kind and gentle nature to work it is now at Sturbridge, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sedgley, Walsall, and Burmingham and there bent, wrought, and manufactured into all small commodities and diffused all England over.' 

In the Forest of Dean and thereabouts the Iron is made at this day of cinders being the rough and offal thrown by in the Romans time: they then having only foot blasts to melt the ore. But now by the force of a great wheel that drives a pair of bellows twenty feet long all that Iron is extracted out of the cinders that could not be forced from it by the Roman foot blast. And in the Forest of Dean and as high as Worcester there are great and infinite quantities of these cinders; some in vast mounds above the ground and some under the ground which will supply the iron works some hundreds of years and these cinders are they which make the prime and best Iron with much less charcoal than doth the Ironstone ... let there be one ton of this bar Iron and twenty pounds will be given for it. 

 


The forge on the River Wye at New Weir, Symond's Yat, is believed to be similar to the one in this 17th century illustration, and was probably originally established in the 1570s by the Earl of Shrewsbury.
John Partridge, ‘Ironmonger of Ross’, took over the lease in 1753. He came from a family of iron masters and in 1801 his family bought the nearby Bishopswood Estate from the Marquis of Bath.
The forge processed and refined cast iron from nearby furnaces.
 A slitting mill cut iron into rods to be made into nails. It was one of a number of connected industrial sites along the Wye and in the Forest of Dean, where the raw materials needed – iron ore, water power and timber to make charcoal – were plentiful.
 It was basically a watermill for slitting bars of iron into rods and consisted of two pairs of rolls turned by water wheels. A piece was cut off the end of a bar with shears, powered by one of the water wheels, and heated in a furnace. This was then passed between flat rolls which made it into a thick plate. It was then passed through the second rolls (known as cutters) which slit it into rods. The cutters had intersecting grooves, which sheared the iron lengthways. The rods then were then passed to nailers who made the rods into nails by giving them a point and head.
Forest ore was being used in the furnaces at the close of the eighteenth century, the mixture used being the old Roman cinders and Cumberland ore brought up the Rivers Severn and Wye.

The rich Cumberland ore required much less charcoal than the leaner classes from the Forest, and the ironmasters refused to use any ore containing less than about 50 per cent of iron. Charcoal was soon to give place to coke for smelting, and in about 1795 the first coke-operated furnace began to blow.

* see Observations on the Iron Cinders found in the Forest of Dean and its Neighbourhood by G. Wyrall 1877-78, Vol. 2, 216-234

 

  The Bishopswood Hoard 

A large hoard of nearly 18,000 Roman coins, one of the England's largest, was found on the property of Colonel Harry McCalmont MP at the Bishopswood Estate, near Lydbrook in 1895 while workmen were clearing a wooded area behind Bishopswood Church. The coins were in three 12 inch earthenware urns and covered in a pile of stones that had been enclosed by a rough wall. As the workmen were levelling some ground on the slope of the hill a chance stroke of pick- axe touched one of the jars in which the coins were deposited, and its contents were scattered in all directions. A closer inspection showed that there had been at least three of these jars, and a rough low wall had been built round them, but there was no trace of any cover.

Two of the jars were broken to fragments, which were mixed with coins and soil.

The place where the ' find ' took place is 300 to 400 feet above the Wye, with a very deep descent, which seems to have been scooped, but roads and buildings have considerably altered its face.

A deep ancient road runs by it, and the place looks as if it might have been used as an outpost to some of the Roman camps in the neighbourhood, and the city of Ariconium is only a few miles from it. I believe there are some earthworks at Ruardean within sight.

Hitherto no Roman coins have been found in the Forest of Dean later than Carausius, from which it has been inferred that the iron mines were not worked by them after that time ; but this ' find ' is a mile at least beyond the mineral district of the Forest, and was probably placed where it was for military purposes.

The coins may be roughly described thus — I, Constantius Chlorus, died at York 306. 2, Flavia Julia Helena, his first wife ; 3, Flavia Maxima Theodora, his second wife ; 4, Licinius ; 5, Constantine the Great ; 6, Constantinopolis, and 7, Urbs Romana, both struck in honour of cities by him; Fausta, his wife; Crispus ; 10, Constantine n., or junior; H. Constans ; 12, Constantius H., a.d. 361 ; 13, Helena. But in such an enormous number it is quite possible that others might yet be found."    

Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Transactions 1895

All but three had been minted during the Constantine period (A.D 295-360). Apparently they were mainly of a low denomination and could have been from an army paymaster's paychest.

The mystery of why such a rich treasure trove of ancient coins would be buried in a sleepy British forest confounded the public.

Scholars eventually confirmed that the treasure site appeared to be the treasury of a Roman Legion who had occupied Britain around that time. It was apparently then a common practice to bury military treasuries.

The large Roman army required a lot of money for supplies and soldiers’ pay—and there were no banks. So just before entering into a battle, the entire hoard of coins would be buried in a secret place known only to a few members of the legion.

Of course, if the army was defeated in battle, hidden hoards such as this one could languish forgotten for centuries. In the case of the Bishopswood treasure, most of the 1650-year-old coins were as perfectly preserved as the day they were buried.

In 290 AD a rank and file legionary received the base wage of 10 asses a day or 225 denarii a year.

Recently a large portion of the hoard came up for sale by Baldwins, the London coin dealers.

 

Bishops Wood Hoard of Roman Coins Realize £46,964 in Baldwin Auction.

'The 1,661 bronze coins and a restored jar that contained them were sold in 11 lots, including the purpose built cabinet in which they were housed. The lots drew worldwide interest amongst the ancient numismatic community prior to the auction as the expertly cleaned and preserved coins had remained out of circulation and in the family of the landowner since their discovery in 1895. Bidding was frenzied and busy, both in the room and on the book, but in the end the lots were all won by the same bidder. Baldwin’s are very happy to report that this part of the hoard remains intact. In total the 11 lots (lots 1152-1162) achieved £46,964, well over pre-sale estimate.'

 

  The Crabtree Hill hoard 

 

Crabtree Hill near Cinderford is close to the centre of the Forest and near the site from the 1860s of the Foxes Bridge colliery.

In August 1839, a workman was employed to collect some stone laying there.

He found several heaps that appeared to be from the remains of a building. Turning over one of the stones revealed around 25 Roman coins. The next day, in another heap only fifty yards away, he found a broken baked-clay urn, with 400/ 500 coins lying nearby.

Those coins were later dated to being mainly from the 3rd century reigns of Claudius II., Gallienus, and Victorinus. Also found was a silver coin of Aurelius from 161-180 AD.

Part of the foundation of a wall was visible, and some of the stones appeared to be burnt, suggesting that the building may have been destroyed by fire.

 

 

Pope's Hill

 An unusual  Roman brooch was found by Mr. W. Williams with a metal detector near Pope’s Hill.

He later reported the brooch to the Roman Legionary Museum at Caerleon under the Portable Antiquities pilot scheme for the recording of archaeological finds.

The brooch is of the Birdlip type and cast from copper alloy. It is highly decorative. The bow is wide, with straight sides, and curves outwards slightly. It is decorated with a median rib, finely knurled, with grooves along each outside edge. A curled wing protrudes from the bow and the marginal grooves continue along its underside edges. Above the wing, the bow widens slightly and splits into two opposing halves, creating a ‘button’ like decoration. Each half is semi-circular in shape and decorated with recessed, misshapen triangles, accentuated by grooves, which are possibly designed to receive enamel. Its most striking feature is the three-dimensional central moulding which can be paralleled with a lion-bow.
A Roman villa is also believed to be situated near an iron-working site at Popes Hill. In an elevated position on the east side of the Forest, it has views over the Severn to the Cotswolds. Extensive iron-working was uncovered by Dr.Scott-Garrett in 1956, and the quality and quantity of the pottery finds, which included Samian and 3rd/4th century colour-coated table wares from the Nene Valley and Oxfordshire, indicates the proximity of a high status building whose occupants were engaged in iron smelting. 

 

 Woolaston 

 

A hoard of about 250 Roman coins dated 313-346 AD was discoverd under a stone at High Woolaston in 1887. It was only reported in 1895 when then in the possession of a family living near Chepstow. They were presented for identication at the National Museum of Wales in 1958 in a box from Mr T R Till of Lodge Farm, Caerleon. (see Roman Woolaston)

 

 Kidnalls Woods 

 

A hoard of around 80 Roman coins was found in a red earthern-ware jar on land belonging to W.H Bathurst in 1808.

 

Huntsham Roman Villa, East of Rudges Barn, near Goodrich

This villa which lies upon the line of a suspected Roman road between Blestium (Monmouth) and Ariconium (Weston under Penyard), is about 4½ miles from the former settlement and 6½ from the latter. It is located within the Huntsham loop of the River Wye, and not far from Goodrich Castle. It was first detected through the chance discovery in 1959 of some Roman tiles during ploughing.

This led to excavations from 1960 onwards and the subsequent discovery of a large villa complex.

In 1960 an aisled barn 65' x 44' was identified which was in use for around 70 years from the late 3rd century to the mid 4th.

Other finds included a double T shaped corn drier, two washing tanks believed to be in use for either pottery or wool washing till around 350AD, and an underground water tank.

In 1965 an excavation at the south wing of the main villa identified nine rooms, and a wall 200 feet long, surrounding the main villa and a cottage house.

Three Romano-British buildings were excavated on the site and an exploratory trench was also dug across the ditch of a large Iron Age enclosure.

Aerial photographs indicate the site was occupied in the late Iron Age. Early iron smelting evidence in association with mid-first-century native pottery is apparently succeeded by mid-second-century pottery.The villa appears to date from the mid 2nd century, and local experts believe its Roman economy is highly likely to have been based on agriculture which later developed into brewing. 

The conclusions quoted by British and Irish Archaeological bibliography at this time are - 'The mid-second-century AD function of the villa is uncertain but a marked change in activity and prosperity in the late-second century was accompanied by much of the building work which still exists. Following a decline, the late-third century saw an increase in activity, potentially connected with a possible brewery constructed in the aisled barn. It is noted that the villa is ideally situated for the transport of heavy goods by boat, that at no time does it evince more than a modest degree of luxury in either of the two houses, and that its overall status may be better understood once more work has been done on other villas in the vicinity.'    

 

ROMAN BLAKENEY

At Legg House, in Church Square, the remains of a high-status Roman stone building that was occupied between AD 75-150 was uncovered by Dean Archaeology Group between 1990-92. They found a length of wall with a first-century stone-built structure. In addition, pottery and hypocaust tiles indicated the possibility of a bath house. This is believed to be the structure recorded from local folklore by Ralph Bigland in 1786.

The 1997 Millend Lane excavation

This excavation by Cotswold Archaeology was commissioned following a field evaluation in February 1997 (by Barber) which had identified Romano-British metal-working deposits within the southern part of a proposed development area (now the area bordered by Mill End Lane and Butler's Mead).

The site suggested an early focus of occupation immediately east of the line of the reputed Roman road. Because these remains were vulnerable to damage during the construction of three house plots in the new development, an archaeological excavation was required as a condition of planning permission by Forest of Dean District Council.

The occupation appeared to span from the late second century through to the latter end of the fourth century AD. 

Excavations in advance of the development revealed ditches, hard-standings, waste pits and a hearth (dated to third and fourth centuries AD), which are thought to have been on the periphery of an ironmaking site.

Examination of charcoal indicated that the fuel for smelting was derived from coppice woodland.

Nine Roman coins were recovered during the excavation. They dated from between the last quarter of the third and the end of the fourth centuries AD.

A number of metal objects were also found. They included a lead fragment, one copper-alloy object, 20 iron nails and five other iron object fragments, and two iron hoops, possibly from the axle of a cart. 

In one trench, a slab-lined, circular oven-base with an associated cobbled-surface was uncovered.  

Examination of 1064 sherds revealed that the pottery discovered included products from the large regional industries, notably Severn Valley wares, Dorset black-burnished wares, Oxfordshire colour-coated wares and mortaria and micaceous greywares. Another find was a Midlands grog-tempered storage jar.

 

   The Dean Road

A  1902 photograph of the Dean Road near Blackpool Bridge by Rev. A J Lumbert.
Arthur J Lumbert was the priest at Primrose Hill Mission Church (now Holy Trinity, Primrose Hill) from 1893 for 52 years. He was a photography enthusiast and also involved with the local Scout movement. He died in 1945 and is buried at Lydney.





The Dean Road as seen by A W Trotter in 1936 (TBA collection)

The ' Dean Road' is believed to rest upon foundations laid in Roman times and had a pitched stone surface and kerbstone borders. It begins at Highfield above Lydney and cuts through the Forest. It crosses the Viney Hill to Yorkley road, and passes over the Blakeney to Parkend road near Blackpool Bridge which itself rests on foundations laid in Roman times.  The Road can then be followed through the woods to Soudley where it disappears under today's road to Littledean. It is then tracked past Guns Mills to Mitcheldean and vanishes in the direction of Ariconium (Weston under Penyard).
A coin from Constantine II 's reign dated between 330-335AD was found in some trees bordering the Road near Little Soudley in the 1950s and in 1991 a hoard of over 500 4th century Roman coins was discovered alongside the road near Oldcroft.
 Legend of the Roman Army and the Severn Bore around AD 47

The Roman army, reputedly the 2nd Augustan legion under the command of Aulus Plantius, first Governor of Britain, attempted to cross the Severn in their campaign to capture Caractacus. The British 'guerilla' leader had escaped into the west and was leading the warlike Silures, under the control of the Druids who were being forced to flee the Roman genocide against their caste. The legend says that the Druids were assembled with a vast band of ancient Britons on the west bank of the river, at the place called the Noose (Awre). Here the river is over a mile wide with a vast sandbank surrounded by two shifting narrow channels. It was low tide and the Roman army was goaded by the wild dancing of the British to engage in battle. The army comprised armoured foot soldiers and cavalry, who quickly crossed the small channel of the eastern bank.

When the army reached the far side of the Noose sands, and as the Druids chanted to the goddess Sabrina, the Roman's were horrified to see the river sweeping up the western channel in the flood tide. Unable to cross they retreated back across the sands, but on reaching the eastern side their retreat was now cut off by the tide flowing back down and around the Noose to meet the flood tide still moving up the eastern channel.

As the army struggled to get to the east bank the soldiers and horses became trapped on the sand, as the bore tide swept across the Noose. Legend says that, in their panic, the army was totally drowned in front of the eyes of the Roman general and his standard bearers on the eastern bank.

The Druids had triumphed over the might of Rome, and most importantly, the warrior goddess, Sabrina, was embued with a power beyond all things. The river Severn became viewed as a mighty natural obstacle by the Romans, and marked the western frontier of their empire for fifty years.

Caratacus was a first-century British chieftain of the Catuvellauni tribe, who led the British resistance to the Roman conquest. Before the Roman invasion Caratacus is associated with the expansion of his tribe's territory. His apparent success led to Roman invasion, nominally in support of his defeated enemies. He resisted the Romans for almost a decade, mixing guerrilla warfare with set-piece battles, but was unsuccessful in the latter.

After his final defeat he fled North to the territory of Queen Cartimandua, who captured him and handed him over to the Romans. He was sentenced to death as a military prisoner, but made a speech before his execution that persuaded the Emperor Claudius to spare him.

 

 

Do you have anything interesting to add to this page? Any contributions or corrections will be gratefully accepted.

Sources..
Ancient Dean and the Wye Valley by Bryan Walters
Archaeology in Dean by Cyril Hart
Roman Dean by Geoff Sindrey
Wikipedia

 


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