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Romano-British Wetland Reclamations at Longney, Gloucestershire, and Evidence for the Early Settlement of the Inner Severn Estuary

  • J. R. L. Allen and M. G. Fulford
Extract

By the end of the Roman period, and largely as the result of late Romano-British activity, somewhat over one-half of the tidal wetlands of the inner Severn Estuary between Gloucester and Awre had been embanked and drained. Little reclamation occurred during the medieval period, but early modern-modern times witnessed substantial further activity, leaving scant active salt marsh today. The Romano-British reclamations are recognized on the basis of archaeological evidence and, where direct evidence of settlement is lacking, by the degree to which the reclaimed areas are depressed below the level of the contemporary active marshes along the tidal river. Despite the similarity in the amount of available wetland on both banks, most of the Romano-British reclamations are to be found on the left bank of the Severn, and most of these carry a settlement directly on the alluvium. This distribution pattern points to significant differences in the organization and use of land between the two banks of the river and, when combined with other evidence, suggests that wetland reclamation on the left bank was mostly a feature of the development of large villa estates, with the alluvial settlements representing substantial, outlying farmsteads. Iron-making based on rich ores imported from the Forest of Dean occurred at all the wetland and near-wetland settlements on the two banks, and locally may have taken place on an industrial scale. At Awre on the right bank, however, an early iron-making tradition seems to have survived to a late Roman date.

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NOTES

1 Allen, J. R. L. and Fulford, M. G., ‘Romano-British and later reclamations on the Severn salt marshes in the Elmore area, Gloucestershire’, Trans. Bristol Gloucestershire Archaeol. Soc. 108 (1990), 1733.

2 Allen, J. R. L., ‘Late Flandrian shoreline oscillations in the Severn Estuary: change and reclamation at Arlingham, Gloucestershire’, Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. London, A, 330 (1990), 315–34.

3 Geological Survey of Great Britain 1:50,000 Sheet 234 (1975).

4 Willis, L. J., ‘The Pleistocene development of the Severn from Bridgnorth to the sea’, Quart. J. Geol. Soc. London 94 (1938), 161242; Hey, R. W., ‘High-level gravels in and near the lower Severn Valley’, Geol. Mag. 95 (1958), 161–8; Geological Survey of Great Britain 1975, op. cit. (note 3).

5 Allen, J. R. L. and Rae, J. E., ‘Late Flandrian shoreline oscillations in the Severn Estuary: a geomorphological and stratigraphical reconnaissance’, Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. London, B, 315 (1987), 185230.

6 The grey-green silts with thin rooted peats of the postglacial Wentlooge Formation are exposed either permanently or from time to time at Port Ham (British National Grid Reference SO 806193), Longney Crib (762119), Arlingham (728114) and Awre (712076, 701069, 698093). Throughout the inner estuary, the higher beds can be seen in the drainage ditches after clearing, the deeper of which reach down to the higher peat deposits.

7 Anderson, J. G. C., ‘The concealed rock surface and overlying deposits of the Severn Valley from Upton to Neath’, Proc. South Wales Inst. Eng. 83 (1968), 2747; Beckinsale, R.P. and Richardson, L., ‘Recent findings on the physical development of the lower Severn Valley’, Geogr. J. 130 (1964), 87105; Brown, A. G., ‘Holocene floodplain sedimentation and channel response of the lower River Severn, United Kingdom’, Z. Geomorph. 31 (1987), 293310; Prevost, E. W., Reade, T.M., Kennard, A. S. and Woodward, B. B., ‘The peat and forest bed at Westbury-on-Severn’, Proc. Cotteswold Natur. Fid. Club 9 (1901), 1746.

8 Allen, J. R. L., ‘Dimlington stadial (Late Devensian) ice-wedge casts and involutions in the Severn Estuary, southwest Britain’, Geol. J. 22 (1987), 109–18.

9 Anderson, op. cit. (note 7)

10 Hydrographer of the Navy, Admiralty Tide Tables, 1. 1989, European Waters (Taunton, 1988).

11 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1)

12 Allen, J. R. L. and Rae, J. E., ‘Vertical saltmarsh accretion since the Roman period in the Severn Estuary, southwest Britain’, Marine Geol. 83 (1988), 225–35; Heyworth, A. and Kidson, C., ‘Sea-level changes in southwest England and Wales’, Proc. Geol. Ass., 93 (1982), 91111; Shennan, I., ‘Flandrian sea-level changes in the Fenland. I: The geographical setting and evidence for relative sea-level changes’, J. Quat. Sci. 1 (1986), 119–54; idem, Flandrian sea-level changes in the Fenland. II: Tendencies of sea-level movement, altitudinal changes, and local and regional factors’, J. Quat. Sci. 1 (1986), 155–79; idem Holocene crustal movements and sea-level changes in Great Britain’, J. Quat. Sci. 4 (1989), 7789; Shennan, I., Tooley, M. J., Davis, M. J. and Haggart, B. A., ‘Analysis and interpretation of Holocene sealevel data’, Nature 302 (1983), 404–6.

13 Allen, J. R. L., ‘Constraints on measurement of sea-level movements from salt-marsh accretion rates’, J. Geol. Soc. London 147 (1990), 57; idem The formation of coastal peat marshes under an upward tendency of relative sea-level’, J. Geol. Soc. London 147 (1990), 743–5; idem Salt-marsh growth and stratification: a numerical model with special reference to the Severn Estuary, southwest Britain’, Marine Geol. 95 (1990), 7796.

14 Allen, op. cit. (note 2).

15 Allen, J. R. L., ‘A short history of salt-marsh reclamation at Slimbridge Warth and neighbouring areas, Gloucestershire’, Trans. Bristol Gloucestershire Archaeol. Soc., 104 (1986), 139–55.

16 As at Elmore, Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1).

17 Allen and Rae, op. cit. (note 5), give at reconnaissance level a stratigraphical and geomorphological account of the high intertidal sediments formed over the last few centuries in the Severn Estuary.

18 Crabbe, J. D. (Severn-Trent Water), pers. comm. 1988.

19 RAF air photographs: 2 April 1946 (prints 5162,5171, 5172, 5173), 30 December 1946 (prints 3044, 3045, 3046, 4044).

20 As, for example, set out in Heighway, C.. The East and North Gates of Gloucester and Associated Sites: Excavations 1974–81, Western Archaeological Trust (Bristol, 1983), 99102.

21 Webster, P. V., ‘Severn Valley ware: a preliminary study’, Trans. Bristol Gloucestershire Archaeol. Soc. 94 (1976), 1846.

22 Young, C. J., Oxfordshire Roman Pottery, Brit. Archeol. Rep. 43 (Oxford, 1977).

23 Young, op. cit. (note 22).

24 Webster, op. cit. (note 21).

25 As, for example, illustrated in Allen, J. R. L. and Fulford, M. G.Romano-British settlement and industry on the wetlands of the Severn Estuary’, Antiq. J. 67 (1987), 237–89; Allen, op. cit. (note 2); Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1).

26 Hooton, D. and Giorgetta, N. R., ‘Quantitative X-ray diffraction by a direct calculation method’, X-Ray Spectrometry 6 (1977), 25.

27 The mineralogy of slags from the Severn wetlands is given in: Allen, J. R. L., ‘Chemical compositional patterns in Romano-British bloomery slags from the wetlands of the Severn Estuary’, J. Hist. Metall. Soc. 22 (1988), 81–6; Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 25); Allen, op. cit. (note 2), Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1).

28 T h e major element composition of slags from the Severn wetlands was determined by X-ray fluorescence analysis, against international and internal standards, of representative washed and dried samples freed from contaminants. See for sources note 27.

29 See, for sources, note 27.

30 Allen, J. R. and Fulford, M. G., ‘The Wentlooge Level: a Romano-British salt-marsh reclamation in south-east Wales’, Britannia 17 (1986), 91117; Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (notes 1, 25).

31 Victoria County History, Gloucestershire, X (Oxford, 1972), 197205; Smith, A. H., The Place Names of Gloucestershire, Part II, The North and West Cotswolds, (Cambridge, 1964), 185–6; Gloucester Rec. Off. Q/RI 92.

32 Smith, op. cit. (note 31).

33 VCH, op. cit. (note 31), 199.

34 See note 31.

35 D. A. and C. A. Browning, pers. comm. 1989.

36 Gloucester Rec. Off., Q/RI 92.

37 Smith, A. H., The Place-Names of Gloucestershire, Part III, The Lower Severn Valley and the Forest of Dean, (Cambridge, 1964), 164.

38 Gloucester Rec. Off. GDR/T1/121, GDR/T1/53.

39 See note 37.

40 VCH, Gloucestershire, IV (Oxford, 1988), 2.

41 Ordnance Survey, Six-inch Sheets (first edition), Gloucestershire XXV SW, XXXIII NW.

42 Hall, D., in Rowley, T., The Origin of Open-Field Agriculture (London, 1981), 2238; idem, Medieval Fields, (Princes Risborough, 1982); Astill, G., in Astill, G. and Grant, A., The Countryside of Medieval England, (Oxford, 1988), 6285.

43 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1).

44 See note 42.

45 Department of the Environment, Register of Historic Buildings and Monuments, Elmore nos. 1/49,1/50.

46 Gloucester Rec. Off. GDR/T1/77.

47 See note 42.

48 Smith, op. cit. (note 31), 185.

49 Gloucestershire C. C. SMR 528 (Brit. NGR SO 763098).

50 See note 42.

51 Smith, op. cit. (note 31), 187; VCH, Gloucestershire, op. cit. (note 31) 205–15.

52 Ibid., 289–99.

53 Ibid., 155–69, 289–99.

54 Ibid., 205–15.

55 Gloucester Rec. Off. D 1388, Q/RI 104, Q/RI 169, GDR/T1/124.

56 See note 42.

57 VCH, Gloucestershire, op. cit. (note 31), 79–102.

58 Gloucester Rec. Off. D272/9/3, GDR/T1/192.

59 Smith, op. cit. (note 37), 204.

60 See note 42.

61 VCH, Gloucestershire, op. cit. (note 31), 79–102.

62 Gloucester Rec. Off., op. cit. (note 58).

63 See note 42.

64 See note 42.

65 Smith, op. cit. (note 37), 206; VCH, Gloucestershire, op. cit. (note 31), 79–102.

66 Gloucester Rec. Off. D272/9/3.

67 VCH, Gloucestershire, op. cit. (note 31), 79–102; Gloucester Rec. Off. GDR/T1/192.

68 Gloucester Rec. Off., op. cit. (note 66).

69 Ordnance Survey, Six-inch Sheets (first edition), Gloucestershire XXXII SW.

70 See note 42.

71 Allen, op. cit. (note 2)

75 See note 42.

76 Gloucester Rec. Off. D2998/1, D272/9/3, Q/RI7.

77 See note 42.

78 VCH, Gloucestershire, (note 31), 155–69.

79 Allen, op. cit. (note 2).

80 Gloucester Rec. Off. D2998/1.

81 Allen, op. cit. (note 2).

82 Gloucester Rec. Off., op. cit. (note 76).

83 See note 42.

84 Gloucester Rec. Off. D272/9/3, P30/SD2/2.

85 N. M. Herbert, pers. comm. 1990.

86 Substantial erosion has occurred at a number of times since the early medieval period along the south side of the Awre peninsula. See Finberg, H. P. R., The Gloucestershire Landscape, (London, 1975), 16; N. M. Herbert, pers. comm. 1990.

87 Gloucester Rec. Off. P30/SD2/2; Ordnance Survey, Six-inch Sheet (first edition), Gloucestershire XL SW; N. M. Herbert, pers. comm. 1990.

88 See note 42.

89 See note 86.

90 Allen, and Fulford, , op. cit. (1987) (note 25).

91 Webster, op. cit. (note 21).

92 Young, op. cit. (note 22).

93 Allen, and Fulford, , op. cit. (1987) (note 25), 256. 94 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1).

95 Allen and Rae, op. cit. (note 12); Allen, op. cit. (note 13).

96 Some sixty radiocarbon dates, chiefly from the outer Severn Estuary and inner Bristol Channel, can be found in: Allen and Rae, op. cit. (note 5); Godwin, H. and Willis, E. H., ‘Cambridge University Natural Radiocarbon dates, III’, Radiocarbon 6 (1964), 116–37; Hawkins, A. B., in Blackman, D. J., Marine Archaeol. (London, 1971), 6787; Heyworth and Kidson, op. cit. (note 12); Murray, J. W. and Hawkins, A. B., ‘Sediment transport in the Severn Estuary’, J. Geol. Soc. London 132 (1976), 385–98; Smith, A. G. and Morgan, L. A., ‘A succession to ombrotophic bog in the Gwent Levels, and its demise: a Welsh parallel to the peats of the Somerset Levels’, New Phytol. 112 (1989), 145–67.

97 See, for example, Shennan, and Shennan el al., op. cit. (note 12).

98 Heyworth and Kidson, op. cit. (note 12), fig. 5.

99 See note 96.

100 Woodworth, P. L., ‘Trends in U.K. mean sea level’, Afar. Geod., 11 (1987), 5787.

101 Woodworth, P. L., ‘A search for accelerations in records of European mean sea level’, Intemat. J. Climatology, 10 (1990), 129–43.

102 Allen, op. cit. (note 13).

103 Finberg, op. cit. (note 86), comments on a law suit in 1234 between Awre, where there was erosion, and Slimbridge, at which deposition was rapidly taking place.

104 Millett, M., The Romanization of Britain, (Cambridge, 1990), 184.

105 Allen, and Fulford, , op. cit. (1987) (note 25).

106 Ibid.

107 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (1986) (note 30), (1987) (note 25); Allen, op. cit. (note 27); Allen, J. R. L., ‘Interpretation of some Romano-British smithing slag from Awre in Gloucestershire’, J. Hist. Metall. Soc. 20 (1986), 97104.

108 Sibly, T. F., Special Reports on the Mineral Resources of Great Britain, x: Iron Ores — the Haematites of the Forest of Dean and South Wales, Memoir Brit. Geol. Survey (London 1927).Trotter, F. M., Geology of the Forest of Dean Coal and Iron Ore Field, Memoir Brit. Geol. Survey (London, 1942).

109 Fowler, P. J., Bennett, J. and Hill, V. S., ‘Archaeology and the M5 Motorway: fourth report’, Trans. Bristol Gloucestershire Archaeol. Soc. 94 (1976), 58.

110 Fowler, P. J. and Bennett, J., ‘Archaeology and the M5 Motorway; third report’, Trans. Bristol Gloucestershire Archaeol. Soc. 93 (1974), 104–9.

111 E. Price, pers. comm. 1990.

112 F. Roe, pers. comm. 1990.

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