Go West

Last weekend I spent a little time in Wales. I had to go over to Cardiff for work and so that seemed like a perfect excuse to stay an extra day or two and have a look at a couple of sites in South Wales while I was there. I’ve never been to these sites before so I was keen to get a look at them.

First stop was Caerwent, Roman Venta Silurum.

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Venta Silurum was the largest civilian centre in Roman Wales and the  administrative centre of the tribe of the Silures. This tribe was bested by the Romans in the third-quarter of the first century, but were finally allowed elements of self-government by the early second century. The Roman street grid, public buildings, shops, houses and other buildings were laid out around the late second century.

I got off the bus on the edge of town, by the Roman East Gate, and set off along the town walls. These survive up to a height of about 5m, complete with towers and were built towards the end of the third century. Who could resist such lovely #wallporn? And so much of it!

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In some area, the external facing stones are still in place. I expect that a lot of these have been taken away over the years for use as building material.

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Where the facing stones have been robbed out, you can see the rather beautiful internal structure of the walls, forming this rough herringbone pattern.

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A few specific features still survive along the wall.

The most obvious are these towers. They are five-sided in plan and were not built as part of the initial wall structure but were built onto the pre-existing wall at a later date, around 350CE. You can see that the stone blocks aren’t bonded into the wall, but butted up against it.

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The South Gate, a single lane gateway, was blocked up late in the town’s Roman history. The square (-ish) hole is a culvert built through the blocked up wall.

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Likewise, the West Gate was also a single-lane gateway and was also blocked up during the late Roman period. In this case, a postern (a little doorway) was built through to allow for pedestrian access.

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The floor and lower courses of the associated guardroom still survive.

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Round the corner, the blocked-up north gate is now in someone’s garden (the picture below was taken from the road) as, along the north side, there are houses and a pub built right up against the wall.

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As well as the walls, surviving in-situ remains include this fantastic area of shops and workshops.

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The lower courses of the stone buildings survive marking the layout of these small business units.

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Nearby there is this courtyard villa, built in the first half of the fourth century. At least some of the rooms had hypocausts and mosaic floors.

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Just down the road is the forum-basilica.

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And just round the corner is this temple.

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The  most striking feature, and what really marks it out as a temple, is the apse-ended cela.

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Caerwent is a very small village and the kind of place where missing the scheduled bus can mean a very long, possibly fruitless, wait so I made my way to the bus stop heading for Newport for my next visit. But that’s another story.

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