Reconstructing Caerwent

Caerwent

(1951) [1970]

Alan Sorrell’s reconstructions of archaeological sites are now well documented and formed an exhibition at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London (2013/14). He seems to have been working on the reconstruction of the Roman town of Caerwent in the 1930s. The ‘aerial’ reconstruction of the town was used in the 1951 MPBW ‘Blue’ Guide to Caerwent Roman City by O.E. Craster (8th impression 1970, 1s 9 d [9p]). This reconstruction, finished in 1937, was provided by the National Museum of Wales. It was clearly felt that providing a reconstruction for the settlement would help visitors to visualise the site where little was to be seen except for the substantial walls and the insula on Pound Lane.

Caerwent

1993

Richard J. Brewer produced a new guide for CAW in 1993 entitled Caerwent Roman Town (note the subtle change of title). By this point remains of the forum-basilica and a nearby temple had been opened to the public, as well as a courtyard house in the western part of the settlement. The colour reconstruction of the town was included in the CADW guide although it notes:

A great deal of research has been undertaken on Roman towns since this painting was completed in 1937, and ideas and interpretations have changed. Nevertheless, Sorrell’s work still conveys well enough an impression of Caerwent as it may have appeared in the fourth century.

The inclusion of the reconstruction by Sorrell in the 1951 guide is a reminder that the MPBW were moving away from a straight description of a complex site with plans and photographs, to one that would capture the imagination of the visitor and help them to visualise how it would have appeared.

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