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Pen-y-Gaer Roman Fort

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Map ReferenceSO12SE
Grid ReferenceSO1686121939
Unitary (Local) AuthorityPowys
Old CountyBrecknockshire
CommunityLlanfihangel Cwmdu with Bwlch and Cathedine
Type Of SiteFORT
1. A Roman auxiliary fort set on a detached knoll on the edge of an extensive plain, it lies roughly midway beteen the military settlements at Brecon Gaer (NPRN 92001) and Abergavenny (NPRN 306295). There are three primary sources for the settlement - early nineteenth century antiquarian observations (Randall 1949; 1950), small scale trenching in 1966 (Crossley 1968) and parchmarks photgraphed from the air in the drought of 1975 (RCAHMW 1986, 146-7).

The visible remains consist of a rectangular platform defined by scarps, about 130m east-west by 90-100m, enclosing an area of about 1.2ha. The available evidence suggests that the fort faced east, looking out across the plain towards Tretower. The 1966 trenching produced evidence for three phases of construction, dated, from a limited ceramic assemblage, to the period 80-130AD. Finds of fourth century coins indicate later activity. The parchmarks recorded in 1975 appear to represent barracks blocks in the western part of the fort. Antiquarian notices record substantial masonry structures in the eastern part.

It is likely that the fort was the centre of an extensive settlement. Building remains were noted on a natural terrace to the north-east, although these may have been destroyed (Jones 1997). A cremation was recorded some 350-400m west of the fort and the 1975 APs appear to show a circular feature, possibly a tomb or shrine, about 200m to the east.

RCAHMW, 10 November 2003

Sources: Randall 1949 (Archaeologia Cambrensis 100), 262-66;
1950 (Archaeologia Cambrensis 101), 21-2;
Crossley 1968 (Archaeologia Cambrensis 117), 92-102;
Jarrett 1969 'the Roman Frontier in Wales', 2nd edition, 108-110;
RCAHMW 1986 Brecknock Inventory I.2. Prehistoric & Roman, 146-9;
Wilson 1991 (Trivium 25), 10-18 [15];
Jones 1997 (Archaeology in Wales 37), 78-9.

2. 'In more recent years several small-scale investigations and observations have been made within the fort. In June 1987 during a visit by the Cardiff Archaeological Society it was noted that a long trench had been excavated through the fort, possibly for drainage, and subsequently backfilled. Investigation of the spoil identified a range of pottery, including the first Severn Valley ware to be recognised within the fort and a Central Gaulish samian bowl of form 37, dated AD 125-150 (Cox and Webster 1987). In 1995 an evaluation was conducted by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust prior to the construction of an extension to the house at Pen-y-gaer. Probable Roman features were identified at a depth of around 0.4m, including a mortar floor and a pit (Williams and Ludlow 1995). Finally, an evaluation was undertaken by Monmouth Archaeology in 2001 prior to the extension of Greenfield Farm, which revealed traces of timber buildings and a produced pottery assemblage (Clarke et al. 2001). The only other relevant work involved excavations carried out by CPAT in 1997 on the potential site of the bath-house, some 200m to the west-north-west of the fort, although the results of this work were inconclusive (Jones 1997).

Renewed interest in the site came with the completion by CPAT in 2006 of a programme of geophysical survey in the area surrounding the fort, funded by Cadw. This identified an area in the field to the south of the fort which appeared to have significant archaeological potential (Hankinson and Silvester 2006), and included a possible building (SO 16849 21796). However, the part of the field between this and the lane to the east was not thought at the time to present much potential, although recent reprocessing of the data suggested otherwise.'

The second and most recent phase of excavation, conducted in May 2011, investigated further the buildings identified in 2007. This involved the partial re-excavation of the original excavation, together with a broadening of the excavation area to the south (Hankinson and Jones 2011). It was followed by further work in June 2012 which extended the 2011 trench and examined two additional trenches adjacent to the lane that edges the east side of the field.'

Paraphrased from Jones and Hankinson 2012. T. Driver, RCAHMW, Oct 2018.


Jones, N W and Hankinson, R. 2012. Pen y Gaer Roman Vicus, Cwmdu, Powys: Excavation and Survey 2005-2012. Report for Cadw. Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust Report number 1163.

3. Royal Commission aerial photography under drought conditions on 19th July 2018 revealed extensive parchmarks of the main buildings of the Roman fort clarifying the internal plan for the first time. The parchmarks also revealed some of the buildings of the vicus to the south, and previously unrecorded remains of a fort annex to the east and a courtyard building and other buildings to the south-east, between the fort and Middle Gaer farm. Site visit with Brecon Beacons National Park, 23rd October 2018.

T. Driver, RCAHMW, 24 Oct 2018.
application/pdfCPAT - Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust ReportsDigital copy of Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust Draft Interim Report relating to Pen-y-gaer Roman Vicus, Cwmdu, Powys: Archaeological Excavation. CPAT Report No. 1107. Produced for Cadw.