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Roman small town at Wycomb

A Scheduled Monument in Andoversford, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.8783 / 51°52'42"N

Longitude: -1.9616 / 1°57'41"W

OS Eastings: 402741.454671

OS Northings: 219976.055272

OS Grid: SP027199

Mapcode National: GBR 3P0.8WF

Mapcode Global: VHB1Y.Y1CW

Entry Name: Roman small town at Wycomb

Scheduled Date: 3 June 1948

Last Amended: 24 November 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019101

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31927

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Andoversford

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Whittington St Bartholomew

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester


The Roman small town at Wycomb comprises an area of approximately 10ha within
which significant evidence for Roman settlement has been recognised from
excavations and aerial photographs. Wycomb is the name of the field in which
the Roman settlement lies, and is thought to be derived from the Latin
`vicus'. The site lies approximately 250m south of the village of Syreford and
immediately to the north east of the village of Andoversford. The recorded
area of the settlement is divided into two distinct zones by the line of the
19th century railway embankment, which stands to about 6m in height. Remains
will survive beneath this embankment however, and the area is included in the
scheduling. The land on either side of the embankment is relatively level
rising to a gentle slope in the north eastern corner near Syreford Farm. The
western extent of the settlement is defined by the River Coln, while to the
east the land rises to form a broad valley within which the settlement is
An aerial photographic survey of the site was undertaken by the Royal
Commission on the Historical Monuments of England in 1994. This showed a
roadway running north east to south west across the length of the site,
passing beneath the railway embankment. To the north of the embankment there
are numerous smaller tracks running east and west from the main street,
petering out after 30m or 40m. Also abutting the south western side of the
main street are the cropmarks of an apparently large complex of buildings.
These were part excavated by Lawrence in 1864, revealing the foundations of a
number of structures. Opposite these cropmarks, on the north western side of
the street are the cropmarks of a further structure, while to the west are
three circular features, two of which are ditched. The larger of the two is
thought to be the levelled remains of a prehistoric round barrow. There are
also various pits of unknown origin throughout the area. All the
archaeological features traced as cropmarks disappear beneath the railway
embankment and will survive there.
Immediately to the south of the embankment, the cropmarks appear in relatively
high density suggesting that this area, and that part of the site beneath the
embankment, may have formed the centre of the settlement. The main street
appears to have forked at a point beneath the embankment, and the eastern
branch runs in a south west direction for about 75m before turning to the
south and disappearing beneath the main road. The western branch is straight
and runs north east to south west from the embankment to the corner of the
field. Both streets have a number of tracks leading off them to the east and
west, about 20m to 30m long. During excavations in the 1860s Lawrence
discovered what is believed to be a Romano-Celtic temple in the area between
the two roads, close to the railway embankment and the cropmark evidence
appears to confirm this, showing a large, square structure in this area. To
the east of the roadway is further evidence for features such as building
foundations, pits and ditches, while to the west the cropmarks are more
sparse, consisting of scattered pits and a curvilinear ditch in the north west
corner which disappears beneath the embankment.
The presence of the Roman settlement at Wycomb has been recognised from the
late 17th or early 18th century, when Abel Wantner made references to burials
found at the site in his notes for an unpublished history of Gloucestershire.
Further references to a Roman town and associated finds occur throughout the
18th and 19th centuries, including the excavations by Lawrence, undertaken
in advance of the construction of the Cheltenham to Bourton-on-the-Water
branch railway. There was no further archaeological work at Wycomb until a
watching brief by Mrs H E O'Neil in 1956 when a water pipe was laid across the
site. No features were encountered in the fields to the east or south west of
the settlement site, although extensive features were noted within Wycomb
field itself. Work was also undertaken in advance of the construction of the
A40 between 1969 and 1971. This revealed features of the Roman period, as did
work at Syreford Mill to the north west of the settlement area. Similarly,
excavations undertaken in advance of the construction of the sewage works
which lie to the south west of the railway embankment revealed rubbish pits,
gullies and a burial. This part of the site has since been built over and is
not included in the scheduling.
Excluded from the scheduling are the railway embankment and associated brick
revetting, all post and wire fences, telegraph poles and their supports,
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.

There is good evidence that the Roman small town at Wycomb developed on the
site of an earlier, Iron Age, site and that the temple represents the
continuation of a pre-Conquest religious or ritual site. The Roman settlement
therefore appears to have grown up on a site of considerable antiquity and
religious significance, indicating continuity both of place and function. The
remains of a Bronze Age burial mound appear to be the earliest such evidence
for this. Romano-British temple sites also acted as market centres for
surrounding communities and it is likely that this would also have been a
significant factor in the development of the settlement at Wycomb. Excavations
and aerial photographs indicate that the settlement covered an area of
approximately 10ha and that it was provided with metalled roads and other
attributes of urban planning.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Timby, J R, Kingscote: A Romano-British Estate Centre in the Cotswolds, (1998), 377-386

Source: Historic England

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