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.
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!
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.
Where the facing stones have been robbed out, you can see the rather beautiful internal structure of the walls, forming this rough herringbone pattern.
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.
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.
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.
The floor and lower courses of the associated guardroom still survive.
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.
As well as the walls, surviving in-situ remains include this fantastic area of shops and workshops.
The lower courses of the stone buildings survive marking the layout of these small business units.
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.
Just down the road is the forum-basilica.
And just round the corner is this temple.
The most striking feature, and what really marks it out as a temple, is the apse-ended cela.
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.