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Roman fort and later Romano-British settlement at Woodbury Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Axminster, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.772 / 50°46'19"N

Longitude: -2.9976 / 2°59'51"W

OS Eastings: 329752.15518

OS Northings: 97406.929684

OS Grid: SY297974

Mapcode National: GBR PH.3L8H

Mapcode Global: FRA 47M1.L02

Entry Name: Roman fort and later Romano-British settlement at Woodbury Farm

Scheduled Date: 1 November 1988

Last Amended: 2 December 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011921

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22301

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Axminster

Built-Up Area: Axminster

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Axminster St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Details

This monument includes a Roman fort with a second century and later settlement
overlying it and extending westwards and an associated stretch of the Fosse
Way.
The fort lies on the eastern flank of the Axe valley and survives as a
square area defined by a ditch up to 18m wide and 1.6m deep. The ditch is
visible around the entire circuit of the fort apart from the area in the
immediate vicinity of Woodbury Farm where it has been infilled. The interior
of the fort measures 144m north east to south west by 132m north west to
south east, giving an area of 1.9ha. Within the fort two elongated
mounds standing up to 0.3m high may represent building rubble. In the southern
half of the fort slight ridges orientated approximately east to west represent
the site of a former orchard. Excavations carried out in the north east corner
of the fort in 1981 revealed a number of early Roman features including a pond
which had been deliberately backfilled in places with large quantities of
rubbish including much third and fourth century Roman pottery.
Evidence for the later settlement, which grew up beside the Dorchester to
Exeter road, was identified initially through aerial photographs. During 1984,
for example, photographs revealed a substantial stone building which has since
been interpreted as a mansio, a building used to accommodate travellers
involved with the provincial postal service. Traces of other associated
buildings were also noted in the north western part of the fort on this
photograph. Ploughing of this field in recent years has produced Roman
artefacts including pottery and metalwork.
A pipeline trench cut through the area to the north and west of the fort in
1990 revealed Roman deposits up to 0.6m deep. An early Roman ploughsoil 0.2m
deep was overlain by a later Roman level up to 0.4m thick which sealed a
variety of Roman features including pits, two roads and boundary ditches. A
large number of Roman artefacts including pottery wasters were recovered
suggesting that Woodbury may have been a production centre during the third
century AD.
A further pipeline trench excavated in July 1992 in the area of the
northern ditch of the fort and extending in a south westerly direction across
the field west of the fort, confirmed the presence of Roman features,
including a road and buried soils within 50m of the fort.
In 1993 and 1994, two programmes of geophysical work within the fort and the
field to the west further demonstrated the presence of archaeological remains.
Within the fort the features identified on the earlier aerial photograph were
all noted, whilst in the area to the west a system of parallel linear
boundaries was demonstrated. In the later Roman period the settlement would
have ranked as a small town lying at the junction of the two most important
roads in the region. The site is thought to be the town of Moridunum which is
listed in late Roman itineraries. The site was abandoned by the end of the
fourth century and later reverted to cultivation.
The farm buildings, service poles, the slurry pit, fence posts and modern
metalled surfaces are excluded from the scheduling but the ground below is
included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Roman forts served as permanent bases for auxiliary units of the Roman Army.
In outline they were straight sided rectangular enclosures with rounded
corners, defined by a single rampart of turf, puddled clay or earth with one
or more outer ditches. Some forts had separately defended, subsidiary
enclosures or annexes, allowing additional storage space or for the
accommodation of troops and convoys in transit. Although built and used
throughout the Roman period, the majority of forts were constructed between
the mid first and mid second centuries AD. Some were only used for short
periods of time but others were occupied for extended periods on a more or
less permanent basis. In the earlier forts, timber was used for gateways,
towers and breastworks. From the beginning of the second century AD there was
a gradual replacement of timber with stone.
Roman forts are rare nationally and are extremely rare south of the Severn
Trent line. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments, which are
important in representing army strategy and therefore government policy, forts
are of particular significance to our understanding of the period. All Roman
forts with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be nationally
important.

The Roman fort at Woodbury Farm survives well. Partial excavation of the site,
including observation of pipeline trenches, as well as extensive geophysical
survey, have enhanced our understanding of the monument and the sequence of
occupation, confirming, for example, what was previously suspected from aerial
photographs, that the fort was later reused as a settlement, possibly
Moridunum, a small town listed in late Roman itineraries. Associated with the
settlement, and possibly the main reason for its existence, was a mansio, a
building used to accommodate travellers involved with the provincial postal
service. This is one of only 13 examples recorded in England and is the most
southerly and westerly of that distribution. The fort also lies towards the
edge of the south west distribution of forts.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Cole, M, Woodbury Farm, Axminster, Devon. Geophysical Survey, Feb 1994, (1994)
Collingwood, RG, Richmond, I, The Archaeology of Roman Britain, (1969), 5
Henderson, C G, Simpson, S J, Archaeological Investigations at Woodbury Great Close, Axminster, (1990)
Linford, N, Woodbury Farm, Axminster, Devon. Geophysical Survey, Feb 1994, (1994)
Silvester, R J, Bidwell, P T, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in A Roman Site at Woodbury, Axminster, , Vol. 42, (1984), 33-57
Silvester, R J, Griffith, F M, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in A Roman Site at Woodbury, Axminster - Addendum, , Vol. 42, (1984), 53
Silvester, R J, Griffith, F M, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in A Roman Site at Woodbury, Axminster - Addendum, , Vol. 42, (1984), 33-57
Silvester, R J, Griffith, F M, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in A Roman Site at Woodbury, Axminster - Addendum, , Vol. 42, (1984), 54-56
Silvester, R J, Griffith, F M, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in A Roman Site at Woodbury, Axminster - Addendum, , Vol. 42, (1984), 54-55
Silvester, R J, Griffith, F M, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in A Roman Site at Woodbury, Axminster - Addendum, , Vol. 42, (1984), 54-56
Weddell, P, 'EMAFU Report' in Archaeological Appraisal of Potential Development Areas etc., , Vol. 91.14, (1991), 6
Other
AM Laboratory Report 88/93, Linford, N., Woodbury Farm, Axminster, Devon. Interim Report on Geophysical..., (1993)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SY29NE33,

Source: Historic England

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