Discover Swindon’s Roman roots

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An archaeology student from Chippenham College revealing a Roman Mosaic discovered at South Farm, near Chiseldon in the late 90s

By Roger Ogle

It’s always been known Swindon has connections to the Roman era, but most people will be amazed how much evidence there is of Romano-British life in the area.

And for the first time in Swindon, on 18 March, a day is being organised to bring together experts who have been involved in digs over the last 30 years.

Organiser Mike Stone of the Association for Roman Archaeology, said:. “We had many requests to focus on the archeology of the Swindon area which includes digs in Highworth, Purton, Chiseldon and as far out as Minety. You will be really surprised how much a centre of Roman life Swindon is and we really want people who live here to find out more about important local history from 2,000 years ago.

“Surveys and excavations at Kiln Park in Toothill during the early 1970s, found about 40 pottery kilns and in 2004, a dig took place at Groundwell Ridge. Now that expansion is moving eastward, the day will also look at the Roman town of Duroconovium south of Wanbrough which was researched in the 70s and 80s.

“During the Iron Age and Roman times, the whole area was covered in small farms. The Romans were keen on this part of the country and the local tribal chiefs made the area wealthy; the large houses and villas designed in the Roman style is evidence of this. The Oxford clay that everybody knows from their gardens was exploited by the pottery works to supply demand for storage pots and tiles; indeed Minety had the second largest works in the country supplying building materials.”

Romans in Swindon will be opened by Sarah Rose Troughton, the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire and introduced by Bryn Walters, who has spent most of his archaeological life working on the Roman town at Wanborough and associated villas.

Wiltshire County Archaeologist Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger will review recent Iron Age and Roman archaeological projects in the area ahead of new housing developments, whilst Dave and Kerry Sabin of Archaeological Surveys will present results of their work south of Highworth and around the town.

Dr Pete Wilson, of Historic England, who supervised the excavations at Groundwell Ridge in North Swindon, will talk about the work there in advance of the publication of a book about the findings.

Mike will also talk about Roman industry in the area, ranging from stone quarrying, ceramic building materials and the potting industry.

The event will include stands from a variety of archaeological and history organisations.

The Romans in Swindon Day School takes place on Saturday 18 March, 10am to 4pm, at the Marriott Hotel, Old Town. Tickets are £30, to include tea and coffee and a hot buffet lunch. To book a place, write to Mike Stone, 26 Awdry Cose, Chippenham SN14 0TQ, enclosing a cheque for £30 per person attending made out to ‘Wiltshire Victoria County History Trust’ or mail: stone48@live.co.uk

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