Proof Found That The Romans Went All The Way In Wales

By Richard Moss | 02 April 2003
Shows Dr Merrony and his colleagues uncovering a Roman floor.

Left: Dr Mark Merrony and colleagues uncover a Roman floor in the excavation in Pembrokeshire.

In a discovery that could change the way we look at the scope of Roman influence in Britain, an archaeologist has uncovered evidence of a high status Roman Villa in South West Wales.

The discovery near Wolfscastle in Pembrokeshire could provide vital proof that Romano-British culture actually spread to the furthest reaches of Wales, much further than was previously thought.

Led by locally born archaeologist Dr Mark Merrony, the dig was based on an original finding made by the nineteenth century antiquarian and archaeologist Richard Fenton.

Fenton's report, dating from 1811, detailed how a farm labourer came across Roman remains while working in a field near Wolfcastle. After investigation Fenton concluded that a Roman Villa had once existed on the site.

Shows a photograph of a group of Roman re-enactors dressed as legionaries and marching in step.

Right: the Legio II Augusta living history group show the sort of sight that once greeted the good folk of south west Wales. © Phil Sayer.

The intervening 192 years have seen the location lay dormant and Fenton's findings have been largely ignored, until now.

"I got the book out again and I worked out exactly where it was," said Dr Merrony. "I looked up the 1891 OS map for the area and they'd actually stuck a cross on the corner of this particular field, which was handy because that's exactly where it was."

A team of archaeologist friends and colleagues was assembled and the long delayed excavation finally began.

"What we found was pretty much what we expected," explained Dr Merrony. "There are shards, which I believe to be Severn Valley pottery from the first and fourth century, as well as Roman roofing slates, paving slabs and a stone object that could be a flue arch or part of a bath."

"It's the stuff that archaeological dreams are made of. I have always been interested in finding Roman artefacts in Pembrokeshire and this discovery I believe will put Romano-British Pembrokeshire on the map."

Shows a geophysical image of the area.

Left: somewhere in there is a Roman Villa - a geophysical image of the area. Courtesy of Oxford Archaeotechnics.

Previous findings in the area include a small Roman fort, discovered near Amblestone in 1921, and a small Roman Villa near the Carmarthenshire border in the 1950's. More recently archaeologists unearthed traces of a Roman road running from Carmarthen towards Haverfordwest and this latest discovery points towards an even greater Roman influence in Pembrokeshire.

Gwyn Williams, Director of Cambria Archaeology said he was cautiously optimistic about the discovery. "We don't know yet how important the site is, so the jury is still out, but we do know there are Roman materials in the area and many artefacts proving Romanised occupation have been found at Bronze Age sites."

"It remains to be seen what Dr Merrony can achieve and of course it will need a big funding package to mount a proper investigation into the site."

Dr Merrony is now starting the arduous task of trying to acquire funding for a full excavation, which he hopes to undertake in the summer.

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