Major Romano-British Settlement

Charterhouse on Mendip, Avon

NGRef: ST501561
OSMap: LR172/182
Type: Major Settlement, Fortlet, Lead/Silver Mines.
Roads
Probable road: NE (20) to AQVAE SVLIS (Bath, Avon)
SE (12) to Shepton Mallet (Somerset)

The Roman Lead/Silver Mines

The silver mines at Charterhouse in the Mendip Hills south of Aquae Sulis (Bath, Avon), were operating from at least AD49, as attested by dateable ingots of lead found in the neighbourhood of the Mendips (vide Burn 10/11 infra). At first the lead/silver industries were tightly controlled by the Roman military, but within a short time the extraction of these metals was contracted out to civilian companies (vide Burn 12 etiam infra), probably because the silver content of the local ore was not particularly high.

Claudian Lead Ingots from the Mendip Hills and Somerset

TI•CLAVD•CAESAR•AVG•P•M•TR•P•VIIII•IMP•XVI•DE•BRITAN BRITANNIC•AVG•II

V ET P
"For Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus, High Priest, holding tribunician power for the ninth time,¹ hailed Imperator in the field sixteen times. [Lead] from Britain." "For Britannicus Augustus,² the second [consignment?]

Veranius and Pompeius³"
(Burn 10; CIL VII.1201; lead pig from the Mendips) (Burn 11; CIL VII.1202; lead pig from Somerset now in British Museum)
  1. Claudius held the powers of a tribune of the plebs for the ninth time from December AD48 until December the following year.
  2. Claudius was voted the honorific title Britannicus by the senate shortly after his return from Britain in AD43, but instead chose to bestow that name upon his infant son. This entire line may also be translated: "British [lead]. For the Second Augustan [Legion]". The translation given above is that favoured by Burn himself.
  3. Quintus Veranius and Caius Pompeius Longinus Gallus were ordinary consuls for the year AD49 (a.u.c.802).

Lead Ingot from Stockbridge in Hampshire, Probably Originating in the Mendips

NERONIS AVG EX K IAN IIII COS BRIT

EX ARGENT CNPASCI
"For Nero Augustus, consul for the fourth time from the first of January.¹ British [lead]

from the silver works of Gnaeus Pascius.²"

(Burn 12; CIL VII.1203)
  1. The emperor Nero was consul for the fourth time in AD60 (a.u.c.813), with Cossus Cornelius Lentulus his junior colleague.
  2. The mining contractor's name may be Gaius Nipius Ascanius, who is thought to have had other interests at Pentre in North Wales.

More Lead Pigs from Charterhouse

"[Property of] Imperator Vespasianus Augustus. British [lead] from the silver-works of Tiberius Claudius Triferna."
Two lead sows (JRS 47 (1957) pp.230-231)

There are other Roman lead/silver mines at Machen in Mid-Glamorgan, South Wales, Pentre in Flintshire, North Wales, and at Lutudarum (Crich, Derbyshire) in the Southern Pennines, where Tiberius Claudius Triferna is also known to have operated.

The Roman Settlement at Charterhouse

"Little is known of the plan of the mining-settlement at Charterhouse-on-Mendip [44 VCH Somerset I, 1906, 334-344; see below, p. 123] (ST 502561). Besides the amphitheatre, photographs show broken ground marking old mining-operations and a rectangular earthwork (about 220 ft. by 200 ft.) with a wide entrance in the centre of the north-east side. Some structure seems to have stood within {93} the earthwork, and when opportunity comes for excavation at Charterhouse this would be a promising site at which to begin." (J.R.S., 1953, pp.92-3)

Tombstone of an Imperial Freedman

D M ... AVG LIB FRATRI SVO RESTITVTA SOROR FECIT ... MATVGENI ... DOMO ROMA ... ORMIPS ... IC R
"To the shades of the departed [...] freedman of the emperor. For her brother, Restituta his sister has made this [...] of Matugenus [...] a native of the city of Rome [...] Ormips?¹ [...]"
(RIB 184)
  1. I wouldn't like to hazard a guess as to what the trailing portion of this text may be.

The mines were served by an associated mining settlement with a small amphitheatre for the entertainment of its denizens. Only three inscriptions on stone are recorded in the R.I.B. for the Charterhouse fort and settlement, all of which are damaged. There is a tombstone of an imperial freedman who was possibly involved in the running of the silver workings here (vide supra), and a building dedication to the emperor Caracalla which proves continued imperial involvement during the early-third century (vide infra). The only other inscription on stone is a damaged and undecipherable text which reads ... NN ... RI ... FI ... (RIB 186).

Building Dedication to the Emperor Caracalla

PRO SALVTE DOMINI NOSTRI IMP CAES DIVI L SEPTIMI SEVERI PII PERTINACIS PARTHICI ADIAB ... M AVR ANTONINI
"For the salvation of our lord, Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus,¹ [the son of] the divine Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Parthicus Adiabenicus [...]²"
(RIB 185; dated: AD212-217)
  1. The emperor Caracalla, whose sole rule began in late-December AD211 following his brother and co-ruler Geta's fratricide, and ended with his own murder in April 217.
  2. His father, the emperor Septimius Severus, who had himself ruled from April AD193 and died of illness at York in February 211. Aside from the two honorific titles Parthicus & Adiabenicus which were earned in 198 and 195 respectively, the additional title Arabicus was also taken in 195, and Britannicus in 209/210 for his recent campaigns in lowland Scotland, the strain of which surely contributed to his death.
See: Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
Roman Britain - A Sourcebook by S. Ireland (Routlege, New York, 1986);
Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
The Romans in Britain - An Anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1969);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97;
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

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