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Caerwent Roman City; Venta Silurum

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Map ReferenceST49SE
Grid ReferenceST4691790591
Unitary (Local) AuthorityMonmouthshire
Old CountyMonmouthshire
Type Of SiteTOWN
The extensive remains of the Roman city of Venta Silurum are found in the village of Caerwent. The surviving city walls, particularly on the south side, are one of the most impressive Roman monuments in Britain. The city was extensively excavated in the early years of the twentieth century and more recent work has included the consolidation of remains for public display. These include the Forum (NPRN 403922) and a temple (NPRN 403916). An interpretation centre has recently opened on the Westgate Farm site (NPRN 405354).

The city occupies a low ridge or spur, overlooking the meadows alongside the Nedern Brook. This is at the centre of a valley plain surrounded by hills. There was a settlement or centre of some kind in the later first century AD, but the formal capital was not established until the second century when the east-west road running across the plain was built (NPRN 307871), possibly as late as the principate of Hadrian. This became a grand city crowded with luxurious private mansions and public buildings, including an amphitheatre (NPRN 401216). These buildings spilled out beyond the tower-studded walls, which enclosed an area of some 16.5ha.

There were numerous grand buildings elsewhere across the plain, set amid extensive cemeteries, gardens and fields. There are remains of a possible villa at Whitewalls Clump 600m north-east of the city (NPRN 307961) and a winged villa is recorded 2.0km to the west at Five Lanes (NPRN 405453). Tile found at Crick Barrow (NPRN 307966), 1.5km to the east, hints at the presence of a further building.

There is evidence for an extensive rectilinear field system between the city and Five Lanes (NPRN 260018, 302142, 405454, 405455).
The city was occupied up to the end of the Roman period and for an unknown period beyond. The name VENTA SILURUM means the assembly place of the Silures - the local tribe and the name CAERWENT means 'the city of Gwent'.

early excavations: see Boon in Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 107 (1989), 5-26
Ashby & Martin in Archaeologia 57.2 (1900), 295-316
Ashby and others in Archaeologia 58.1 (1902), 119-152
in Archaeologia 59.1 (1904), 87-124 - includes amphitheatre, 104-5
Dawson in Archaeologia Cambrensis sixth series 4 (1904), 239-246
Ashby in Archaeologia 60.1 (1906), 111-130
in Archaeologia 60.2 (1907), 451-464
Nash Williams in Archaeologia 80 (1930), 229-288
in Archaeologia Cambrensis 80 (1933), 114-119
Grimes in Archaeologia Cambrensis 86 (1931), 210-215
Dunning in Archaeologia Cambrensis 100 (1948), 93-5
in Journal of Roman Studies 38 (1948), 81; 39 (1949), 96
Nash Williams in the Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 15.2 (1953), 159-167; 15.3 (1953), 231-42
- the walls: Ward in Archaeologia Cambrensis sixth series 16 (1916), 1-36
Craster in Archaeologia Cambrensis 103 (1954), 54-65
Casey and others in Archaeologia Cambrensis 132 (1983), 49-77
Manning in Wilson (ed.) 'The Archaeology of Roman Towns' (2003), 169-183
- recent work: Ashmore in the Monmouthshire Antiquary 3.1 (1971), 61-2
Brewer in the Monmouthshire Antiquary 4 (1982), 52-3
Farley in the Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 31 (1984), 209-50
Rees & Anthony in the Monmouthshire Antiquary 22 (2006), 57-72
- recent overviews: Brewer in Trivium 25 (1991), 75-85
in Greep (ed.) 'Roman Towns' (1993), 56-65
in the Monmouthshire Antiquary 12 (1996), 15-22
Wacher 'Roman Towns in Britain' second edition (1995), 378-91
Webster in Wilson (ed.) 'The Archaeology of Roman Towns' (2003), 214-220

John Wiles, RCAHMW, 25 January 2008