Segontium Roman Fort


The Roman fort of Segontium lies on the edge of Caernarfon in north Wales. The fort is the property of the National Trust but was placed in state guardianship in 1958. The original National Trust guidebook was by C.A. Ralegh Radford who prepared so many of the guides for sites in the care of the Office of Works. The fort was excavated by (Sir) Mortimer Wheeler in 1920-23.

1947 (2nd ed.)

1963 [1972]
1963 [1972]
The original ‘blue guide’ was written by G.C. Boon, Assistant Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Wales (1962; 2nd ed. 1963). My MPBW ‘Official Guidebook’ is the fourth impression of the second edition (1969) costing 2 s 6d [12.5 p]; the DOE ‘Official Guidebook is the fifth impression (1972) costing 15 p. The guidebooks have a section on ‘The visible remains’ and ‘The historical background’, with a summary in Welsh. There is a foldout plan inside the back cover. I also note the presence of a quote by Professor Robert Carr Bosanquet, a former Director of the British School at Athens (and later at Liverpool University), to introduce the guide: ‘These ruins are the title-deeds of the ancient borough of Caernarvon’. There are a number of plans and photographs, including a reconstruction of the fort by Alan Sorrell.

The DOE edition differs by stating the name of the fort in Welsh on the title page: Caer Rufeinig Segontium, Sir Caernarfon. And inside the cover is a paragraph on DOE Season Tickets in both English and Welsh.

A.L.F. Rivet and Colin Smith ¬†note that the fort’s name was turned into Segontion and then into the form Caer Segeint and Caer Seint.


The new bilingual Cadw guide by Jeffery L. Davies (2005) uses the Welsh form of Segontiwm. This guide with new reconstruction by John Banbury, a plan and small finds has sections on the History of the Fort / Hanes y Gaer; Tour of the Fort / Taith drwy’r Gaer; and Environs of the Fort / Yr ardal o amgylch y Gaer.

Maiden Castle


Sir Mortimer Wheeler wrote the Ministry of Works guide to Maiden Castle in 1951. This was replaced by a ‘blue’ DOE guide in 1972, with the 4th impression published in 1980 (for 60 p). [There is an unexpected typographical error on the imprint page, as the first date of publication is given as ‘1792’!]

Wheeler, who excavated the site, structured the guide with the following themes:

  • Neolithic Village
  • Bank-barrow and its burial
  • Bronze Age hiatus
  • First Maiden Caste of the Iron Age
  • Later Maiden Castle
  • Eve of the Roman Invasion
  • Battle at the East Gate
  • Romano-British Temple

There is a foldout plan at the back.

Archaeological guides: DOE

DOE Guidebook (1970)

We have been reflecting on what makes a good guidebook to a site. My shelves have strategically situated Department of the Environment ‘Official Guidebooks’ in their standard blue covers. The one for Caerleon states “Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre and Barrack Buildings, Monmouthshire”. There is a parallel title in Welsh, “Theatr Gron Rufeinig Caerllion a Llety’r Milwyr, Sir Fynwy”. The cost was 10p.

The text is¬†authoritative, penned by Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Dr V.E. Nash Williams. The guide is divided into sections: ‘Caerleon in legend and history’, ‘The amphitheatre’, ‘The Prysg field barrack-buildings’, and ‘Caerllion’ (in Welsh). There are few photographs (one of the barracks, the amphitheatre, ovens in the corner of the fort), a double page reconstruction of the amphitheatre, and two large fold-out plans in the back.

The tone is academic, and was probably not very practical. But it was a solid text to consider after the visit.

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