GOBANNIVM

Roman Fort and Settlement

Abergavenny, Gwent

NGRef: SO2914
OSMap: LR161
Type: Fort, Settlement.
Roads
NNE (20) to MAGNIS (Kenchester, Hereford & Worcester)
NW (9) to Pen-y-Gaer (Powys)
SE (10) to BVRRIVM (Usk, Gwent)

Gobannium - The Place of the Miners?

The first mention of the Roman fort at Abergavenny occurs in the Antonine Itinerary of the late-second century, wherein Iter XII entitled "the route from Muridunum to Viroconium" details the posting stations between Carmarthen in Dyfed and Wroxeter in Shropshire. Halfway along this route is a station named Gobannio, which is listed 12 miles from Burrium (Usk, Gwent) and 22 miles from Magnis (Kenchester, Hereford & Worcester).

Abergavenny is also named in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmology as Bannio (R&C#53), between the entries for Isca Augusta (Caerleon, Gwent) and Bremia (Llanio, Dyfed).

The name Gobannium seems to be Celtic in origin and is possibly associated with mine-working.

The Gobannium Fort

The Gobannium site is situated on a steep incline on the south-west side of a spur, at the end of which lies a Medieval Castle. The fort occupies the only area of level ground and the civil settlement grew along either side of the road which led down the slope to the north-west towards the fort at Brecon Gaer.

Stamped Tile of Legio II Augusta from Abergavenny

LEG II AVG
"[Property of] the Second Augustan Legion."
(Burn 24; see also at Y-Gaer)

A well-worn Augustan coin, sixteen pieces of Claudian samian-ware and two items of bronze military equipment of a type compatible with Celtic auxilia of the Claudian period, were recovered from the lowest levels of a military rubbish-tip at the bottom of the steep incline outside the defences of the fort. This evidence undoubtedly places the Roman military at the site during the earliest push into Wales, very likely during the campaigns of the governor Publius Ostorius Scapula.

The Archaeology of Abergavenny/Gobannium

"Excavations, in advance of development in the years 1962-9, produced evidence of a military ditch system in Flannel Street and timber buildings in Castle Street. Then in 1972, on the Orchard site, a typical¹ granary was found behind a turf and timber rampart." (Webster 1993)
  1. In fact, the timber-built granaries in the fort at Abergavenny are remarkably small at only 8 x 6 metres, whereas the average size of such buildings in Britain was c.20 x 8.5 metres.

Excavations carried out in 1970 at 33 Castle Street (SO 299140) found the remains of wattle-and-daub walls covering the site. Two pits were found beneath this building debris, one of which contained a number of oval clay sling-shots. In the years 1972/3 on the Orchard site (SO 298141), the Roman rampart was investigated and found to be constructed of clay, turf and timber, exhibiting evidence of two structural phases. Further evaluation was carried out in 1994 at Monk Street (SO 3008 1418), in 1998 at The Levens (SO 300150), in 1999 at Castle Street Car Park (SO 2984 1403) and in 2001 at Castle Street (SO 2991 1402) and Cross Street (SO 3000 1407).

See: The Romans in Britain An anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Oxford 1932) p.24;
Britannia ii (1971) p.246;
Britannia iv (1973) p.272;
Britannia v (1974) p.400;
Britannia xxvi (1995) p.330;
Britannia xxx (1999) p.322;
Britannia xxxi (2000) pp.374/5;
Britannia xxxiii (2002) p.281;
Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993) pp.74/5.

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