The buried remains of part of a first to fourth century AD Roman town and port, known as Abona or Abonae, stands at the junction of the rivers Avon and Trym. The site is not visible at ground level but survives as buried features. The settlement overlooks the River Avon at Sea Mills, Bristol.
Reasons for Designation
Part of the Roman Settlement of Abonae, Sea Mills, Bristol is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: archaeological evaluation and recording from the C18 to the present day has demonstrated that this part of the settlement survives particularly well, retaining considerable evidence for occupation from the C1 AD to the later C4 AD;
* Rarity: as a particularly early Roman town and port, dating to the earliest phase of Romanisation in England and the West Country it is very rare in a national context;
* Potential: archaeological evaluation has confirmed that the site has very high potential for adding to our understanding of the development of the town and the social and economic changes that the Roman Conquest brought. The site also has considerable potential for the preservation of water-logged deposits which may preserve organic material such as wood, leather, fabric and plant remains;
* Group Value: as a significant port and settlement, Abonae formed part of a wide network of Roman sites, with links to settlements in Bath and most probably Gloucester.
Evidence of Romano-British occupation at Sea Mills has been recorded since the early C18. Railway and road construction in the late C19 and early C20 disturbed much of the underlying archaeological deposits, although subsequent archaeological investigation has confirmed that elsewhere extensive buried remains, including roads, building and numerous artefacts, survive. Small and large scale archaeological excavations and surveys have been carried out at Sea Mills since the 1910s. In 1945, a watching brief was carried out during the construction of prefabricated housing, at which point the remains of Roman buildings were recognised. In the 1960s various rescue archaeology surveys occurred, providing further evidence of Roman occupation. By 1970 it was accepted that the site was the Roman town Abona(e) recorded in the Antonine Itinerary. Although the full extent of the Roman settlement is not conclusively known archaeological investigation in the early-C21 has allowed a better understanding of the development of the town.
Abona was established as a military town and fort in the first century AD, on a headland overlooking Avonmouth. The core of the early settlement was located in the Hadrian Close/Portway/Abon House area. The town and port evolved over the next three centuries, with a civilian occupation established by the early second century. By the third century a waterfront had probably been developed at the mouth of the River Trym, providing a local trading and transhipment centre. A road once connected Abona with the City of Bath and is still evident at Durdham Down (Scheduled Monument, National Heritage List Entry 1007000) 1.5 miles to the east, and probably is marked by Mariner's Drive in Sea Mills.
Civilian and military occupation continued until the late fourth century when the town expanded to the south. No evidence has been found suggesting that occupation continued into the fifth century, and it is likely that Abona declined from the later 4th century onwards before being abandoned, in common with many other Romano-British settlements. There appears to have been some post-Roman activity in the area after the abandonment of the settlement, although it is not clear to what extent this included occupation.
The land to the north end of Hadrian Close, Sea Mills, which lies between the Portway Road and the railway line, was excavated in connection with a planning application for proposed development. This work was carried out in two phases in 2006 and 2008/09, and confirmed that this was the focus of the earliest Roman settlement at Sea Mills. It is likely this developed as the civilian settlement in relation to the military occupation of Sea Mills further east. Excavations have uncovered evidence of pottery from the first to the fourth century, although the main focus of activity is from the first and second centuries.
The Romano-British settlement and port of Abonae at Sea Mills is located on a sloping and terraced bank, close to the confluence of the rivers Avon and Trym. It survives largely as buried features, with a core concentration between the Portway, the railway line, and the left bank of the mouth of the River Trym.
The area includes the remains of the first and second century Roman settlement at Hadrian Close. Recent excavations revealed archaeological deposits lying 0.12 to 1.08m beneath the modern ground surface, including a cobbled linear road running north-east to south-west. There is a clear focus of occupation and structural activity to either side of this road including the remains of a number of buildings in the form of wall footings. In some cases these are likely to be shops with narrow frontages. Ditches, drains and cobbled yard surfaces have also been uncovered, along with hearths and kilns. Large quantities of pottery have been recovered, including 5,268 Roman sherds. They include a mixture of continental and regionally-traded wares such as samian ware (probably linked with the military occupation); black burnished wares; mortaria; and amphorae. Building material including stone, brick, box flue tile and floor and roof tile has been recovered. Other finds include Romano-British burials, later burials, brooches, pins and bracelets, domestic cooking items, personal grooming items, Roman vessel glass and coins. Sub-Roman remains in the form of burial pits and human remains are scattered across the excavated area and are likely to represent squatter-like activity after the main periods of occupation of the settlement. Further Roman deposits, including cobbled surfaces, have been made in the allotments to the west and on the bank of the River Avon.
All standing buildings and above ground structures are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.
The scheduling includes a 2m margin around all the nationally important features to provide an appropriate level of support and protection for the scheduled monument.