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Roman small town at Dorn

A Scheduled Monument in Batsford, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 52.0023 / 52°0'8"N

Longitude: -1.7017 / 1°42'6"W

OS Eastings: 420574.992764

OS Northings: 233807.699077

OS Grid: SP205338

Mapcode National: GBR 4P4.GKS

Mapcode Global: VHBYS.GX7W

Entry Name: Roman small town at Dorn

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 11 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018451

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31926

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Batsford

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Blockley St Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester


The monument, which falls into two areas divided by a railway line, includes
the largely buried remains of a Roman small town which has two main
components: a rectangular defended enclosure adjacent to the Foss Way and a
small settlement lying around a broad north-south roadway running parallel to
and about 560m to the west of the Foss. The site lies about 1.5km to the north
of the town of Moreton-in-Marsh.
The rectangular enclosure covers about 4ha, the ditches and banks of which are
still visible, although considerably degraded. The ditch appears as a broad
depression varying between 30m and 50m in width and up to 1.5m in depth. On
the western side the ditch is 20m wide and 1m deep, overlain by traces of
medieval cultivation in the form of ridge and furrow. The enclosure lies
immediately to the west of the original line of the Foss Way, which is visible
from the air as a crop mark running south west to north east across the
fields. Aerial photographs show the road as a band of metalling between 8m and
10m wide with intermittent traces of flanking ditches. Within the enclosure,
crop marks indicate a number of streets, metalled and up to 5m wide, following
the alignment of the enclosure sides and the Foss Way. The settlement within
the enclosure is divided into six regular insulae, each of about 0.7ha in
area. The northernmost of the east-west streets can be seen to run beyond the
eastern part of the settlement to form a `T'-junction with the Foss Way.
The presence of a Romano-British settlement site at Dorn has been recognised
from the early 17th century and numerous finds were reported from the site
over the following 200 years. When the railway line was constructed during the
19th century, archaeological discoveries included building foundations, pits
and wells, along with two altar-shaped sculptures. One of these depicts a
genius and the other a genius wearing a mural crown and carrying a cornucopia
and patera. The site was part excavated between 1937 and 1939 by Lieutenant
Colonel R K Morcom, during which a stone-built rectangular structure divided
into four rooms with a tiled roof was discovered. Associated finds included
painted wall plaster and some coarse tesserae, indicating that there was a
building with a tessellated pavement nearby. Trenching to the south of the
building revealed evidence for further structures. Below these levels was a
floor associated with a timber building of later second to early third century
AD. Finds from the excavations included coins dating from the reign of Hadrian
(AD 117-138) to the early fifth century, along with pottery of first to fourth
century date.
In 1994 the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England undertook a
topographic survey and aerial photographic transcription. This focused on the
western side of the enclosure, revealing a robber trench following the
line of the ditch, and a gap in the line of the trench which is thought to
indicate the position of a gate. Despite the shape of the fortified enclosure
and indications of a planned street grid, there is no evidence that Dorn was
ever a military base.
The survey also noted the cropmarks of ditched enclosures integrated with the
broad tracks of lanes covering an area of about 4.5ha and lying 200m to the
west of the defended enclosure. The common alignment of the cropmarks in this
area with the lines of the defences and the Foss Way suggest some form of
continuity and planned development. The cropmarks are also thought to indicate
a lengthy period of occupation, with many intersecting ditches suggestive of
episodes of recutting and alignment. Roman pottery and coins have been found
in these fields during the 20th century.
Excluded from the scheduling are all post and wire fences, wooden post fences,
metal and wooden gates and their gateposts, although the ground beneath all
these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Five types of town are known to have existed in Roman Britain: coloniae,
municipia, civitas capitals, Roman provincial capitals and Roman small towns.
The first four types can be classified as `public towns' because each had an
official status within the provincial administrative system.
Roman small towns are settlements of urban character which lack the
administrative status of public towns, but which are nevertheless recognisably
urban in terms of morphology, features and function. They tend to lack the
planned rectangular street grids, public buildings and well-appointed town
houses of the public towns and instead are generally characterised by mainly
insubstantial timber or half-timbered structures. Some small towns possess an
enclosing wall, while others have masonry or earthwork defences. Additional
features include temples, bath houses, ovens, kilns and cemeteries.
Roman small towns began to emerge in the mid-first century AD. However, the
majority of examples appeared in the later first and second centuries, while
the third and fourth centuries saw the growth and development of existing
establishments, together with the emergence of a small number of new ones.
Some small towns had their origins in earlier military sites such as fort-vici
and developed into independent urban areas following the abandonment of the
forts. Others developed alongside major roads and were able to exploit a wide
range of commercial opportunities as a result of their location. There are a
total of 133 Roman small towns recorded in England. These are mainly
concentrated in the Midlands and central southern England. Some examples have
survived as undeveloped `greenfield' sites and consequently possess
particularly well-preserved archaeological remains.

The Roman small town at Dorn lies along the course of the Foss Way between
Cirencester and Lincoln, and covered a considerably larger area than that
enclosed within the defences, possibly extending over 15ha or more.
Archaeological investigation of the site has revealed evidence for significant
activity from the first to late fourth centuries AD and aerial photographs
suggest some form of planning in the layout of the settlement.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Iron Age and Roman Monuments in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, (1976), 12-13
Timby, J R, Kingscote: A Romano-British Estate Centre in the Cotswolds, (1998), 518-529
Timby, J R, Kingscote: A Romano-British Estate Centre in the Cotswolds, (1998), 518-529

Source: Historic England

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