Caerwent © David Gill
The Roman town of Venta Silurum at Caerwent, Wales, has impressive walls as well as the excavated remains of some the public buildings.
The original Ministry guidebook was prepared by Oswin E. Craster. It follows the standard format of History and Description, with a foldout plan inside the back cover. The later editions contained a reconstruction of the town by Alan Sorrell.
This was replaced by a Cadw guide by Richard J. Brewer. This contained a history followed by a tour guide. There is a foldout plan inside the back card cover. There are numerous colour illustrations including finds from the site.
A second edition of the guide, in larger format, was published in 1997.
1993 (2nd ed. 1997)
A third edition in a yet larger format appeared in 2006. This contains details of recent excavations at the site.
The new guide also included a section on the nearby Llanmelin Wood Hillfort.
1993 (2nd ed. 1996; 3rd ed. 2006)
Porth Hellick Down © Patrick Taylor
The ancient monuments on St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly received Ministry signs. The chambered tomb on Porth Hellick Down is described as ‘the best preserved tomb of all those in the islands’, echoing O’Neil’s guidebook, ‘perhaps the best preserved of all those in the islands’. Again, ‘a few potsherds have been found in the chamber’, follows, ‘a few potsherds have been found in this tomb’.
Innisidgen © Patrick Taylor
At Innisidgen the sign starts with the same description as Porth Hellick. The description in the guidebook, ‘Nothing is known to have been found in the chamber’, follows the sign, ‘the chamber has long since been rifled of its contents’.
Lower Innisidgen © Patrick Taylor
The sign at Lower Innisidgen echoes the others.
Bants Carn © Patrick Taylor
The sign notes, ‘Cremated bones and pieces of pottery were found in the chamber many years ago’, whereas the guidebook states, ‘Four piles of cremated bones were found at the inner end of the chamber many years ago, as well as some pieces of pottery in the passage just outside the entrance to the chamber’.
Bants Carn Ancient Village © Patrick Taylor
Near to Bants Carn Burial Chamber is a village. The sign and guidebook place it to the 2nd–3rd centuries AD, describing it as ‘Roman period’ or even ‘Romano-British’. The sign and guidebook talks of ’round or oval huts … built of large, well-laid granite blocks’. The guidebook continues ‘Paths and garden plots or small fields may also be detected’.
Harry’s Walls © Patrick Taylor
A later monument is the artillery fort known as Harry’s Walls.
We are grateful to Patrick Taylor for digitising the images.
Corbridge © David Gill
Historic England has noted that metal-detectorists have been active on part of the scheduled Roman site at Corbridge in Northumberland.
Do we need to change the language used to describe such activity? Do archaeologists need to start talking about the intellectual implications of such illegal activity? What information is being lost from the finite archaeological record?
Further details can be found on Looting Matters.
1949 (2nd impress. 1967)
The guidebook presents the collection of a Roman milestone, early Christian inscriptions, and later monastic material that were moved into the old School House at Margam in 1932.
The guidebook by C.A. Ralegh Radford starts with a history of the area that allows the material in the museum to be placed in context: The Silures and Glamorgan in the Roman period; the restoration of native rile and the introduction of Christianity; the early Christian memorial stones; the formation of Glamorgan; the Celtic monastery at Margam; the pre-Romanesque crosses; the later history of the kingdom of Morgannwg; the Norman conquest of Glamorgan; the Cistercian abbey of Margam.
The second half includes a description of the pieces, starting with the early 4th century Roman milestone from Port Talbot (RIB 2254).
The guidebook includes a plan of the museum showing how the stone were displayed.
(Sir) Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Wheeler prepared the first official guide to the Roman amphitheatre outside the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Isca Silurum) in 1935. The couple had excavated on the site in 1926–27. This guide reappeared as the Ministry of Works paper guide in 1950. It contains the sections:
- Caerleon in Legend and History
- The Amphitheatre
A plan appears on one of the middle pages. There is a note about the legionary barrack-blocks in Prysg Field (also in State Guardianship).
This simple guide was expanded into the ‘blue’ guide with a contributions by Dr V.E. Nash Williams. This is divided into the following sections:
- Caerleon in legend and history
- The amphitheatre
- The Prysg Field barrack-buildings
- Caerllion [short summary in Welsh]
Two fold-out plans appear inside the back cover. The first two sections are essentially the same text as the 1950 guide by Wheeler; Williams contributed the discussion of the barrack-buildings.
The DOE guide has a different bilingual title inside:
Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre and Barrack Buildings
Theatre Gron Rufeinig Caerllion a Llety’r Milwyr
1970 (4th impress. 1980)
The Welsh Office / Y Swyddfa Gymreig produced the Official Handbook / Llawlyfr Swyddogol (blue guide) in 1980. Welsh was used on the cover, and inside the guide uses the bilingual titles that were used in the original blue guide.
The main difference is that there is an extended guide in Welsh with sections mirroring the English section: Hanes; Theatr Gron; Disgrifiad.
Jeremy K. Knight prepared the new Cadw guide (1988). There was a move away from it being a guide to the amphitheatre to the legionary fortress. The guide was organised in the following sections:
- In search of Isca
- The legion and its fortress
- The foundation of Isca
- The layout of the fortress
- The Second Legion and the occupation of Caerleon
This was followed by a tour guide, starting with the fortress baths, followed by the amphitheatre, defences and barracks.
A fold-out plan is printed inside the rear card cover.
There is a single page summary in Welsh (Hanes; Disgrifaid).
2003 (3rd ed.)
Knight prepared the 3rd edition (2003) in the new large format of Cadw guides. A fold-out bird’s eye view was printed inside the front card cover, and a plan inside the back cover. It is divided into two main sections: a history of Roman Isca; a tour of Roman Isca. It contained a feature on ‘Outside the walls: the civilian settlements’.
Vindolanda Museum © David Gill
Some of the organic finds from the excavations at the site of Vindolanda to the south of Hadrian’s Wall have now been put on display in a series of impressive displays in the site museum (see press release). The focus is on the wide range of objects made from wood.
The new displays have been funded through support from the HLF.
The Roman fort of Brecon Gaer lies to the west of Brecon. It is probably to be identified with the Cicucium (Cicutium) from the Ravenna list. The fort was excavated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1924 and 1925, and the remains placed in State Guardianship in 1953. He suggested that the fort was constructed c. AD 75.
A funerary inscription, dating to c. AD 100, belonged to a trooper in the Cavalry Regiment of Vettonian Spaniards (RIB 403). Another tombstone for a trooper from another cavalry regiment is also known from the site (RIB 405). The same cavalry unit was based in Binchester in Co. Durham in the 190s (RIB 730; 1032; 1035). (The guide suggests that the unit was based at Bowes [see guidebook] but the confusion comes from a dedication made at Bowes.)
Oswin E. Craster prepared the short guide (1954). This consisted of a history followed by a description of the remains.
The later DOE guide is an updated version of the paper guide. The concertina card guide was also used for other Roman forts such as Hardknott, and the Saxon Shore Fort at Reculver.