The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological
Trust Historic Environment Record
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ABERGAVENNY ROMAN FORT (Gobannium)
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 01761g Trust : Glamorgan Gwent Community : Abergavenny Unitary authority : Monmouthshire NGR : SO2986014035 Site Type (preferred type first) : Roman Fort Status : Scheduled Monument
Summary : Abergavenny Roman Fort is a SAM situated close to the medieval castle, now mostly under the Castle Street Car Park, it is thought to have been built in AD 55 to house the 500 strong cavalry unit of the legion based at Usk (and later Caerleon), evidence points to it being destroyed or dismantled in AD 60 before being either refurbished or rebuilt in AD 68 until its abandonment in the mid C3rd when the Romans pulled out of the region.
Description : A fort was established at Abergavenny (Gobannium) during the pre-Flavian campaigns in South Wales. The installation is generally considered to be a contemporary of the fortress of Usk, and thus its foundation probably dates to the governorship of Didius Gallus between AD 52 and AD 57 (Manning 1981; Olding 1998; contra Blockley 1993). The fort was occupied well into the 3rd century, although there is too little information to determine whether a garrison was continuously present. During this period several phases of rebuilding and renovation have been detected, the first of which occurred around the end of the 1st century. The second renovation, which involved the establishment of a new internal layout and the abandonment of either the northwest part of the fort, or an annexe (see below), is dated to c AD 150. A final refurbishment of the defences took place after AD 250, but the construction of a building across the ramparts at some stage in the later 3rd century seems to herald the demise of the fort (Orchard Site; Building R3). Late Roman (presumably civilian) occupation continued in some form until at least the close of the 4th century, but its character and extent is not known in any detail.
The Roman fort at Abergavenny now lies at least partially, and quite probably entirely, underneath the modern town. The fort was situated on high ground, close to the edge of a sharp slope that falls away southwards to the floodplain of the River Usk. Although some quite substantial areas have been investigated on occasions (most notably the Orchard Site), the ground plan of military remains within the town, and character of the Roman occupation, remains imprecisely understood.
Two probable stretches of Roman defences have been located. The first is a length of a clay and turf rampart that clearly relates to a fort, orientated northwest-southeast and running roughly along the line of the medieval town wall on the brow of the bluff on the southwest side of the town (Orchard Site; Blockley 1993). The second location is approximately 100m further to the northwest (Flannel Street; Probert 1968-9); here a substantial ditch was encountered, aligned roughly northeast-southwest, but notably not at 90 degrees to the Orchard Site defences. Other significant features have been discovered in the same area of the town; these include barracks, granaries and a stretch of intervallum road at the Orchard Site.
Olding (1998) proposed that a small Roman fort (c 110m x 90m) lay a short distance to the northwest of the medieval castle, orientated northwest-southeast and straddling modern Castle Street. Olding argued that the Flannel Street ditch was not part of the defences proper: instead, he favoured an earlier suggestion that it represented the defences of an annexe measuring some 50m x 80m attached to the northern side of the fort (see Probert 1968-9). However, although this would do much to explain the odd orientation of the ditch (which does not lend itself to a traditional rectangular plan when combined with the Orchard Site rampart), the existence of an annexe awaits conclusive proof. A structure within the 'annexe' has been interpreted as a possible fabrica, or workshop, implying an industrial function for this area. Pearson 2002, 10-12
Blockley, K , 1993 , Excavations on the Roman Fort at Abergavenny, Orchard Site 1972-73 , Archaeological Journal : 150 : 168-242
Bray,J and Clarke, S , 2001 , 18-20 Cross Street Abergavenny, Gwent
Clarke, S and Bray, J , 2001 , Watching Brief at 29 Castle Street, Abergavenny, Gwent
Olding, F. , 1998 , Abergavenny, An historic urban landscape. Desktop Historic Landscape Study.
Pearson, A , 2002 , Roman roads and vici in Southeast Wales. GGAT report no. 2002/061
Probert, LA , 1969 , Excavations at Abergavenny 1962-69, I, Prehistoric and Roman Finds , Monmouth Antiquary : 2 (4) : 163-98.