Ancient Monuments

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Roman settlement site at Bantham Ham

A Scheduled Monument in Thurlestone, Devon

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Latitude: 50.278 / 50°16'40"N

Longitude: -3.8765 / 3°52'35"W

OS Eastings: 266391.478959

OS Northings: 43685.237268

OS Grid: SX663436

Mapcode National: GBR Q9.CZYN

Mapcode Global: FRA 28R9.CML

Entry Name: Roman settlement site at Bantham Ham

Scheduled Date: 30 August 1922

Last Amended: 11 February 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019322

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33760

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Thurlestone

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Thurlestone All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


This monument includes a large Roman and post-Roman settlement site with
evidence for earlier and later occupation, buried by sand dunes at the
mouth of the River Avon. It lies behind a popular holiday beach, and part of
its car park occupies the site.
Bantham Ham has been known as an early settlement since the early 18th
century, when a storm exposed midden deposits, while in the mid-19th century,
cartloads of bones were taken for fertiliser from the marsh on the south side
of the site, then being drained. Timber piles, pointed by burning, were also
found here. Pottery and bone artefacts collected from the dune area in 1902
were found in the 1950s to be of Late Roman or post-Roman date. These included
spindle whorls, bone combs and amphora sherds, dating from the fifth to
seventh centuries AD. An archaeological excavation in the centre of the dunes
in 1978 found evidence for a temporary encampment of the same period with
rough shelters and hearths. Finds suggested that a seasonal trading market had
operated here at that time. A watching brief in 1982 showed that this
occupation extended to the southern edge of the dunes. Monitoring of pipe
trenches in the car park east of the dunes in 1997 revealed two earthwork
banks, faced with coursed and herring-bone clay bonded masonry. A shell midden
was associated with these walls and pottery sherds suggested a fourth to fifth
century date.
A rescue excavation in 2001 on the site of a lifeguard's hut at the south end
of the beach revealed extensive and well-preserved deeply stratified
deposits of the late 5th to early 6th century AD. These included several
superimposed occupation layers containing iron smithing hearths, evidence for
post built structures and many thousands of artefacts. These included
butchered animal bones, metal pins and blades and pottery, comprising Cornish
native wares, imported amphorae from the eastern Mediterranean and north
African red slipped tablewares. Residual material in these layers included
painted plaster and roofing tiles, suggesting the existence of an earlier
Roman building nearby.
Other finds on Bantham Ham during the 19th century include a Neolithic
polished stone axe, Bronze Age arrowheads and Iron Age pottery. Later medieval
and post-medieval finds are also known, including possible burials of
shipwrecked sailors.
A small number of earthworks survive on the Ham. An earth bank runs along the
south side of a metalled road which bounds the north side of the car park.
This is 3.2m wide by 0.7m high and 70m long, being truncated by later roads at
both ends. There are traces of a revetment wall along its north side, 0.7m
wide. Its position and size suggest that it is related to the Late Roman
period banks found in 1997, immediately to its south.
Other earthworks include a later medieval corn ditch, enclosing fields to the
east of the Ham. This is about 3m wide, revetted on its north and west sides
by a coursed drystone wall about 1.5m high. The bank slopes inwards behind
this wall. The hillslope north of the car park contains a number of medieval
lynchets, terraced into the hillslope.
At the extreme southern edge of the dunes, the lifeguard station mentioned
above is built upon a World War II pillbox. The pillbox is a square structure
of cast concrete partly built into the cliff, and measures about 6m square by
2.5m high, with walls about 1m thick. A single gun embrasure faces west onto
the beach. It was complemented by a second pillbox at the north west corner of
the dunes which has since been removed.
The modern lifeguard station built upon a World War II pillbox is excluded
from the scheduling although the pillbox and the ground beneath it are
included. Also excluded from the scheduling are all road surfacings and fence
posts although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The large Roman and post-Roman settlement site at Bantham Ham is an unusual
and important survival where antiquarian records and archaeological excavation
and survey have revealed evidence for occupation over several centuries. Of
greatest significance is the evidence recovered for a trading port, with
earthwork survival and the known presence of extensive and undisturbed buried
remains. Together, these will provide evidence for the size and layout of the
settlement area, for Roman trade, as well as for the lives and activities of
those engaged in trading practice. The recent and past discoveries of
Roman and post-Roman material in quantity makes Bantham Ham a site of
considerable significance in the study of settlement and trading activities of
this date in Britain, while the survival of waterlogged remains in the
marsh provides high potential for the recovery of organic materials.
Earlier and later remains, including medieval lynchets and a World War II
pillbox, provide evidence for the area's significance between at least the
Neolithic period and the 20th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Wall, J, The Victoria History of the County, (1906), 580
Fox, A, 'Antiquaries Journal' in A Dark Age trading site at Bantham, , Vol. 35, (1955), 53-67
Griffith, F M, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in Salvage Observations At The Dark Age Site At Bantham Ham In 1982, , Vol. 44, (1986), 39-57
MPP fieldwork by R Waterhouse, (1999)
Watching brief by EMAFU, (1997)

Source: Historic England

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