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The Late Iron Age oppidum and Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum and associated features

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: The Late Iron Age oppidum and Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum and associated features

List entry Number: 1011957

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hampshire

District: Basingstoke and Deane

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Mortimer West End

County: Hampshire

District: Basingstoke and Deane

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Silchester

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 21-Mar-1923

Date of most recent amendment: 30-Aug-1995

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 24336

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Five types of town are known to have existed in Roman Britain: coloniae, municipia, civitas capitals, Roman provincial capitals and Roman small towns. The first four types can be classified as `public towns' because each had an official status within the provincial administrative system. Civitas capitals are towns which functioned as the principal centres of the civitatae or regions of Roman Britain. They were official creations, generally established in the later first and early second centuries AD in newly pacified areas where the process of Romanisation had been successfully inaugurated. They were often established on the sites of earlier tribal centres or settlements and were populated largely by native Britons rather than Roman citizens. Civitas capitals functioned as economic, cultural and administrative centres for their respective regions. In terms of civic administration, a civitas capital would either have had magistrates and a council or it may have been administered directly for a time through officials known as "praefecti civitatis". Defensive walls usually defined the areas of civitas capitals, these ranging in size from c.14ha to c.58ha. Within the walled area the main features included: the forum-basilica, other major public buildings, private houses, shops and workshops, piped water and sewage systems, a planned rectangular street grid and, in some cases, waterfront installations. Beyond the walls, an area of extra-mural settlement overspill can often be identified. This area can be extensive and may include such features as an amphitheatre, quarries, cemeteries, temples, rubbish dumps, commemorative monuments, potteries and roads. Thirteen civitas capitals are known in England, showing a relatively even distribution throughout the so-called lowland zone of Roman Britain in the more southerly and easterly parts of the country. They were set up in the wake of the advancing army as it moved progressively north and westwards and it was in the south and east that Romanisation had the earliest and most successful impact.

The Late Iron Age oppidum and Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum, Silchester, is in open country and therefore one of the small number of Roman towns where subsequent building has not obscured the origins and development of the site. Although none of the buildings within the town wall survive above ground level, their stone-built foundations, as well as roads and other features are known from partial excavation to survive below ground. The circuit of the upstanding town wall provides an impressive visual feature, while beyond the walls stand the amphitheatre and sections of the outer and outlying earthworks.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes the Late Iron Age oppidum and Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum and associated earthworks which together extend over an area of c.129ha. The town lies north east of the modern village of Silchester, in open countryside at the eastern end of a gravel spur. The town was enclosed by a series of defensive circuits, of which the third century AD wall is the most complete and well-preserved, marking periods of growth and retrenchment. Extensive excavation within the walled area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the Society of Antiquaries enabled a plan of much of the third and fourth century AD town to be compiled but its earlier form and history and those of the associated earthworks are less certain, although more recent excavations have increased knowledge of both. In addition to the town wall and earthwork defences, the amphitheatre is upstanding. Roads, building foundations and other features are preserved below ground but are not now visible, except as crop marks from the air. Calleva is thought to have originated as an oppidum, a nucleated settlement, in the Late Iron Age. The Atrebates, after whom the town was named, came to southern Britain from Gaul and it is thought that their leader, Commius, probably made the town his base after dispute with and flight from Julius Caesar in about 50BC, joining some of his people who had earlier settled in Britain. Recent excavations on the site of the later Roman basilica, near the centre of the town, have indicated two main phases of pre-Roman occupation, the earliest dating from the mid-first century BC, when wooden round houses were constructed. Towards the end of the first century BC, the round houses were replaced by a more formal, rectilinear arrangement of streets, plots and timber buildings. Coins of Eppillus, a successor to Commius, bearing the mark CALLE or CALLEV were most probably minted at Calleva, and other finds, including amphorae and fine pottery, show that trade with the continent was taking place in this period. The Iron Age settlement was protected by outlying earthworks to the west and south, some of which are the subject of separate schedulings, and by a closer, irregular western arc of banks and ditches, represented by earthworks west of Rye House and in Rampier Copse; the latter, known as the outer earthwork, is probably of slightly later date since one of the earthworks appears to be truncated by the banks and ditch in Rampier Copse. It has been suggested that a second defensive earthwork circuit, the Inner Earthwork, may date from the period immediately before the Roman invasion. This, however, appears to have been largely levelled during the early stages of construction of the Roman town; its course is known from crop marks and excavation and is also marked by subsidence of the later town walls where they cross the infilled ditch. Soil accumulation above one Late Iron Age street suggests that Calleva was briefly abandoned before Roman rebuilding started in the second half of the first century AD, while a short period of military occupation may also have preceded the construction of the new town. As a Roman town, Calleva was a civitas capital by the end of the first century AD, a regional administrative centre for the Atrebates, reflecting its earlier status and continuing importance in the government of the new province. The town was laid out on a newly orientated street grid in the mid-first century AD, although some buildings, including the bath house, reflect an earlier street plan, perhaps that of the Iron Age settlement. The forum and basilica were the focus of the Roman town, occupying a large, central site. The forum provided an open space for public meetings and markets, with shops and offices in the buildings enclosing it on three sides and the basilica on the fourth, west, side. The basilica contained the council chamber, court and administrative offices of the town and surrounding civitas. The basilica went through at least two phases of timber construction, a sequence which would have been followed throughout much of the town, before being rebuilt in stone in the middle of the second century AD. The basilica appears to have ceased to function as an official building during the third century AD, when metal-working took place on the site. An enigmatic, fourth- century AD building near the south east corner of the forum has been interpreted as a possible Christian church, which if so would be one of the earliest such buildings in Britain. It may, however, have been associated with another religion altogether, and has also been suggested as a replacement for the basilica as a site for council and judicial meetings. Other public buildings included the baths in the south eastern part of the town and a probable large mansio, or inn for travellers on official business, near the south gate. The baths were sited beside a spring-fed stream but the water supply may have been augmented by water piped from further afield; the shallow gravel at Calleva caps water-bearing clay and wells were sunk throughout the town. The mansio, after the forum and basilicam, Calleva's second largest building, had a bath house and granary in addition to two wings of possible self-contained suites of accommodation linked by a third wing with a number of heated rooms. Several Romano-Celtic temples and shrines were built in the town. At least two were by the east gate and it has been suggested that a third may lie beneath the similarly aligned parish church. The first century AD amphitheatre, which has been partly excavated, was built beyond the wall at the north east corner of the town. The remaining buildings ranged from small, undivided, rectangular structures to larger, sub-divided buildings with one or more wings abutting or enclosing courtyards. On stone foundations, the upper parts of many of these buildings may have been of stone or timber-framed construction, no more than a single storey high. The buildings would have provided shops, offices and workshops as well as living accommodation for the town's inhabitants. A defensive circuit of rampart and double ditches was constructed towards the end of the second century AD. This was remodelled and strengthened by the addition of a wall to the front of the rampart in the third century AD. Crop-marks and excavation have shown that the street grid extended beyond the area enclosed by the town defences as far as the earlier Outer Earthwork to the west. A short-lived additional western earthwork was also constructed, probably in the earlier period of the town's history, which may have been intended to enclose a cemetery. The street grid did not extend into this area, which was, however, crossed by the Cirencester road and another track diverging from it. Crop marks suggest that buildings and plots flanked both the Cirencester and London roads with, at the west, fields beyond them. Adult burial was not permitted within towns and cemeteries had therefore to be located outside the walls. The location and size of the Calleva cemeteries are not certainly known, but four possible sites, including one in the western extension described above, have been suggested by the discovery of small clusters of cremations; the other sites are in the bank in Rampier Copse, to the east of Church Lane nearby, and near the London road by the east gate. The site of an inhumation cemetery is indicated by the discovery of a stone coffin near the north gate. The end of Roman Calleva is obscure. A few isolated finds, including a Roman column reused as a tombstone and inscribed in Celtic ogham script, suggest that the town was occupied until about the fifth century AD but thereafter it appears to have been largely deserted. The threat represented by early Saxon settlements not far to the north, at Dorchester on Thames, and to the south, at Winchester, may have led to the town's abandonment. An attempt at preventing encroachment from the north is suggested by the construction of Grim's Bank, a linear earthwork running along the higher ground between Calleva and the River Kennet from the Cirencester road towards and across the line of the Dorchester road. The ability to construct such an earthwork does indicate that a sizable community remained for a time in the neighbourhood, if not in the town. No evidence of destruction has been found and the town's decay may have been as a result of the gradual loss of surrounding territory and the support it provided rather than through any more direct cause. Silchester is mentioned in the Domesday book but the earliest surviving building of the post-Roman village is the 12th and 13th century Church of St Mary, near the east gate of the Roman town. Evidence of a mid 12th century timber building was found during excavation within the Roman amphitheatre, together with indication of a palisade on the top of the bank, suggesting that the site was reused as a defensive stronghold. The north western corner of Silchester deer park, probably enclosed in the 13th century, lies within the town's eastern limits but the greater part of the park lies further to the east. The focus of the village, however, moved westward to its present site on Silchester Common, leaving the Roman town to revert to open country. All modern houses, garages, sheds, loose boxes, barns, stores, greenhouses and associated structures and areas of hard-standing, drives, paths and tennis courts; all roads, metalled and unmetalled tracks, footpaths and car-parking areas; all fences, gates, stiles, steps, signs and associated posts and telegraph posts; all ponds, water tanks, troughs and associated pipes are excluded from the monument, but the gound beneath them is included. St Mary's Church, churchyard and the ground beneath them are also excluded from the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Cunliffe, B, Iron Age communities in Britain, (1974), 69
Cunliffe, B, Wessex to AD1000, (1993), 241
Cunliffe, B, Wessex to AD1000, (1993), 287
Cunliffe, B, Wessex to AD1000, (1993), 206
De la Bedoyere, G, Roman Towns, (1992), 69-70
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 23
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 26
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 21
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 29
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 14-6
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 5
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 8-9
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 20
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 24-6
Fulford, M, Calleva Atrebatum: A guide to the Roman town at Silchester, (1987), 12
Wacher, J, The Towns of Roman Britain, (1974), 268
Wacher, J, The Towns of Roman Britain, (1974), 256-7
Boon, G C, 'Archaeologia' in Belgian and Roman Silchester: the excavations of 1954-8, , Vol. CII, (1969), 39
Boon, G C, 'Archaeologia' in Belgian and Roman Silchester: the excavations of 1954-8, , Vol. CII, (1969), 3
Boon, G C, 'Archaeologia' in Belgian and Roman Silchester: the excavations of 1954-8, , Vol. CII, (1969), 18-9
Boon, G C, 'Archaeologia' in Belgian and Roman Silchester: the excavations of 1954-8, , Vol. CII, (1969), 4
Boon, G C, 'Archaeologia' in Belgian and Roman Silchester: the excavations of 1954-8, , Vol. CII, (1969), 21
Boon, G C, 'Archaeologia' in Belgian and Roman Silchester: the excavations of 1954-8, , Vol. CII, (1969), 20
Boon, G C, 'Archaeologia' in Belgian and Roman Silchester: the excavations of 1954-8, , Vol. CII, (1969), 5-6
Boon, G C, 'Archaeologia' in Belgian and Roman Silchester: the excavations of 1954-8, , Vol. CII, (1969), IX
Fulford, M, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Calleva Atrebatum: interim report on the oppidum excavation, (1987), 271
Fulford, M, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Calleva Atrebatum: interim report on the oppidum excavation, (1987), 272-5
Fulford, M, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Interim Report on the Excavation of the Oppidum 1980-86, (1987), 277
Fulford, M, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Interim Report on the Excavation of the Oppidum 1980-86, (1987), 275
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 65
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 75
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 59
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 61
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 66
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 73-4
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 77
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 63
Fulford, M, 'Antiq J' in Interim Report on the Amphitheatre and Forum-Basilica Excavation, , Vol. LXV,I, (1985), 69
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 269
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 288
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 82
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 83
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 81
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 266-8
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 79-80
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 293-7
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 263
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 293-7
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 79
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 253-7
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 235-7
Fulford, M, Corney, M, 'Britannia Monograph Series' in Silchester Defences 1974-80, , Vol. 5, (1985), 276-7
Other
HCC, SU 66SE 2, (1986)
HCC, SU 66SW 58, (1986)

National Grid Reference: SU 63920 62435

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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End of official listing