Ancient Monuments

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Cefn-Caer Roman Site

A Scheduled Monument in Pennal, Gwynedd

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Latitude: 52.5837 / 52°35'1"N

Longitude: -3.9126 / 3°54'45"W

OS Eastings: 270512

OS Northings: 300147

OS Grid: SH705001

Mapcode National: GBR 8Z.BC9G

Mapcode Global: WH57F.WB14

Entry Name: Cefn-Caer Roman Site

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2455

Cadw Legacy ID: ME009

Schedule Class: Defence

Category: Fort

Period: Roman

County: Gwynedd

Community: Pennal

Traditional County: Merionethshire


The monument comprises buried features and earthworks representing a Roman fort and its associated civil settlement (vicus). The primary Roman fort network was designed and constructed by the Roman army for the purpose of military conquest and rule. The fort at Pennal stands on a low spur about 100m north-east of the marshy floodplain of the Dovey. It commands a view of both the highest tidal point of the river and its first good crossing point and was probably built in this location in order to allow the unloading of seaborne supplies. Geophysical survey suggests that there were probably two successive forts on this site. The earlier, possibly founded c.AD 80, measured 163m x 161m, enclosing 2.6ha; it had two or perhaps three defensive ditches and was probably built of turf and timber. The later fort was smaller and lay off-centre within its predecessor, measuring 140m x 129m, and enclosing 1.8ha, while an annexe on its south-west, which may have contained a mansio (posting station and hotel for travelling officials) and bath-house, measured 114m x 75m and provided a further 0.8ha of defended space. Traces were also seen of two phases of a rectangular enclosure to the north-east of the forts, though the exact relationship to the defences is not clear and neither contained any obvious buildings. The second fort had only a single ditch, though the absence of buildings between the new and old defences on three of the four sides may suggest that elements of the earlier plan remained in use. The layout of the roads in the second fort was clearly visible, together with the outline of a stone-built headquarters building, though the detail of other buildings was less clear. Outside the fort considerable traces of settlement activity was noted, particularly alongside the roads running north-west and north-east, including a possible courtyard building outside the north-west gate. Excavation adjacent to the north-eastern road revealed at least two phases of wooden aisled buildings, set with their narrow ends to the road, with evidence of domestic, trade and light industrial functions, dating predominantly between AD 130 and AD 160. Activity at the site appears to cease around AD 160, though a few remnants suggest that limited occupation may have continued into the 3rd century.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of Roman military organisation. The monument forms an important element within the wider context of the Roman occupation of Wales and the structures may contain well preserved archaeological evidence concerning chronology, layout and building techniques.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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