Romano-British settlement and associated earthworks on Coombe Down, 760m east of Bake Barn


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Romano-British settlement and associated earthworks on Coombe Down, 760m east of Bake Barn
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Oct-2019 at 12:31:22.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 19151 52069

Reasons for Designation

The most complete and extensive survival of chalk downland archaeological remains in central southern England occurs on Salisbury Plain, particularly in those areas lying within the Salisbury Plain Training Area. These remains represent one of the few extant archaeological "landscapes" in Britain and are considered to be of special significance because they differ in character from those in other areas with comparable levels of preservation. Individual sites on Salisbury Plain are seen as being additionally important because the evidence of their direct association with each other survives so well. Prehistoric and later period villages surviving as earthworks are rare nationally, as are any associations with contemporary field systems or other landholdings. The importance of the examples in the Salisbury Plain Training Area is considerably enhanced by the demonstrable relationship between the settlements, field systems and major boundary earthworks which provide unusually complete evidence of human reorganisation of the landscape. This makes the examples in the Training Area worthy of national protection.

The Romano-British settlement and associated earthworks on Coombe Down, 760m east of Bake Barn survive well as a series of upstanding earthworks and buried deposits. The monument is known from excavation to contain archaeological remains relating both to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. Coombe Down includes one of a group of six enclosed settlements, all lying within two kilometres of each other, that were occupied during the middle Iron Age period. This is the only one of these settlements, however, to have such a long and complicated occupation history.


The monument includes an area of Romano-British settlement earthworks bisected by a series of downland tracks and hollow ways, situated on a south east facing spur on the southern edge of Coombe Down. It also includes elements of field systems and both earlier, Iron Age, and later, Saxon, settlement remains. The Romano-British site was first identified by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1812 who referred to it as `....another very extensive British village....' and in 1928 O G S Crawford, who photographed and surveyed the site, referred to the ground being covered with sherds of Romano-British pottery. More recently, between 1992-1993, the monument was subject to a detailed investigation by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England which included both earthwork and geophysical survey and was complemented by a series of small scale excavations undertaken by the University of Reading. The survey and excavations have revealed evidence that the monument had several phases of occupation spanning some 1200 years. The earliest features include a pit and a series of `working hollows', dated by pottery to the early Iron Age. By the middle Iron Age, the settlement remains included a large, partly bivallate, ditched enclosure 250m in diameter with an entrance on the east side. Excavation has shown the inner ditch of this enclosure to be 5m wide at the top and 3.5m deep. In contrast to these imposing Iron Age earthworks, the early Romano-British settlement is represented by a much smaller trapezoidal enclosure associated with first to second century AD pottery. These remains are no longer visible on the ground but have been plotted by geophysical survey and survive as buried features. The later Romano-British settlement, which partly overlies the Iron Age enclosure, occupies an area of approximately 3.5ha and, from the earthwork survey, appears to overlie part of an extensive system of rectangular fields, indicating an earlier origin for this field system. The settlement remains comprise a series of rectangular and sub-rectangular hollows set within embanked compounds. A track, which develops into a deep hollow way, crosses the settlement with branches leading off it to some of the compounds. Two further branches lead to the site of an old spring-pond in the valley below. The excavations revealed evidence that at least some of the fields remained under cultivation into the fourth century AD or later. These were subsequently abandoned, however, and by the late fifth or early sixth century a Saxon sunken floored house was established against a former field edge. This occupation does not appear to extend beyond the sixth century. Traces of ridge and furrow type ploughing suggest that the site was under cultivation in medieval times and in the south east corner, this cultivation is cut by two parallel hollow ways which form part of a downland track network known to have been in existence by 1773. All fence and gate posts, and feeding and water troughs are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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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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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