The Chessalls Roman town


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of The Chessalls Roman town
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cotswold (District Authority)
Stroud (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 80720 95862

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. Roman small towns are settlements of urban character which lack the administrative status of public towns, but which are nevertheless recognisably urban in terms of morphology, features and function. They tend to lack the planned rectangular street grids, public buildings and well-appointed town houses of the public towns and instead are generally characterised by mainly insubstantial timber or half-timbered structures. Some small towns possess an enclosing wall, while others have masonry or earthwork defences. Additional features include temples, bath houses, ovens, kilns and cemeteries. Roman small towns began to emerge in the mid-first century AD. However, the majority of examples appeared in the later first and second centuries, while the third and fourth centuries saw the growth and development of existing establishments, together with the emergence of a small number of new ones. Some small towns had their origins in earlier military sites such as fort-vici and developed into independent urban areas following the abandonment of the forts. Others developed alongside major roads and were able to exploit a wide range of commercial opportunities as a result of their location. There are a total of 133 Roman small towns recorded in England. These are mainly concentrated in the Midlands and central southern England. Some examples have survived as undeveloped `greenfield' sites and consequently possess particularly well-preserved archaeological remains.

The Roman settlement known as The Chessells survives well and is unusual in that it does not lie close to any of the known Roman roads. There is evidence for agricultural and religious activity and settlement at the site, dating from the first to fourth centuries AD, but no evidence for continuity of occupation into the early medieval period.


The monument includes the recorded extent of a Roman town of about 30ha within which significant evidence for Roman activity has been recognised from aerial photographs and limited excavations. The Roman settlement site lies 18kms WSW of Cirencester, and about 1km south west of the modern village of Kingscote, occupying both sides of an east facing valley head, with several springs rising from the valley side at the 210m contour. The eastern extent of the settlement appears to be defined by the modern road running north east-south west to the west of Bumper's Isle Farm as little archaeological evidence for activity has been found to the east of it. The A4135 also appears to mark the northern extent of the main area of activity and although there are indications of buildings to the north, they cannot be specifically dated to the Roman period and are not included in the scheduling. The western and southern extents of the settlement cannot be so clearly defined, but appear to conform with the road to the south and the field known as `Middle Chessalls' on the west. There is no evidence for pre-Roman native activity within the area of the later settlement. The sites of over 75 buildings of the Roman period have been identified within the Roman town at Kingscote, both from aerial photographs and as concentrations of limestone slabs, sandstone tiles, mortar and dark soil, along with an axial road. The settlement does not appear to have been defended in any way, although there is some evidence for a level of planning in the layout of the town, with a north east to south west and a north west to south east alignment of structures. A portion of the main road was excavated in the 1970s, revealing a limestone surface and ditches on either side. Aerial photographs indicate a large villa type building in the north eastern part of the site, possibly of winged corridor or large courtyard plan, which is associated with a number of detached buildings, and the east-west road across the site appears to head towards the complex. Although no buildings with specialized religious or cultural roles have been identified, finds of a miniature weapon and a carved head of Minerva on the site in the 18th century suggest the existence of a shrine somewhere within or adjacent to the settlement. There is also considerable evidence from the finds made at the site that the main occupation of the inhabitants was based on agriculture. The existence of a Roman settlement at Kingscote has been recognised since the late 17th century, when an enamelled brooch was found here, and it was first recorded in the `Magna Britannia Antiqua and Nova' of 1738. Finds from the site include a mosaic pavement and numerous coins as well as a large number of styli and a bronze stamp of late third century date. The finds can be dated to the first to fourth centuries AD. The earliest material has been found in the central and southern parts of the settlement, while the fourth century finds occur much more widely and are thought to indicate its fullest extent. Excluded from the scheduling are all post and wire fences, stone walls, gates, gateposts, telegraph poles and their supports, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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


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

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Books and journals
Timby, J R, Kingscote: A Romano-British Estate Centre in the Cotswolds, (1998), 6-22


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 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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