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Gelligaer Roman Site

A Scheduled Monument in Gelligaer, Caerphilly (Caerffili)

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Latitude: 51.6665 / 51°39'59"N

Longitude: -3.2539 / 3°15'14"W

OS Eastings: 313373

OS Northings: 197156

OS Grid: ST133971

Mapcode National: GBR HV.666Q

Mapcode Global: VH6DD.KC4T

Entry Name: Gelligaer Roman Site

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 1135

Cadw Legacy ID: GM016

Schedule Class: Defence

Category: Fort

Period: Roman

County: Caerphilly (Caerffili)

Community: Gelligaer

Traditional County: Glamorgan


The monument is comprised of the remains of a fort dating to the Roman period (AD74-AD410). The primary Roman fort network was designed and constructed by the Roman army for the purpose of military conquest and rule. What remains of this extensively excavated Roman auxiliary fort (excavated intermittently from 1903 to 1919) are a series of low banks and ditches within fields to the north-west of the church. The fort, whose original Roman name has been lost, lay on the Roman road from Brecon to Cardiff, between the forts of Penydarren and Caerphilly. The first fort here was 2.4ha in size, constructed of earth and timber and dating from the last quarter of the first century. It lay in the two fields to the north-west of Rectory Road, where low scarps marking its edges are just discernible. This was replaced, between AD 103 and AD 111, by a much smaller fort of 1.5ha to its south-east, in the field bounded by Rectory Road and Church Road. This was quite small as auxiliary forts go, and would have had a garrison of 500 men, probably all infantry (cohors quingenaria).

Unlike most other auxiliary forts this one was built from the first in stone. Its basic layout was standard: a wall with towers at the angles and at intervals along the sides, surrounded a roughly square area, with a v-shaped ditch outside. The gently rolling bank and ditch in the field next to Church Road represent the wall and ditch of part of the south-west side. The bank along the far edge of the field is the north-east wall, and the gap in the middle the gateway. There was a double-arched gateway flanked by guard chambers in the middle of each side, from which roads led to the main adminstrative building (principia) and commandant's house (praetorium) in the middle. These were flanked by large granaries (horrea). Barracks and other miscellaneous buildings filled the remaining space.

The principia was of standard layout, with a courtyard, a long 'audience chamber' across the back of it, and five small rooms at the back, the central one of which was the fort's 'shrine' (sacellum). The adjacent praetorium was arranged around a small courtyard. As was usual in auxiliary forts, the baths were outside the fort, in an annexe to the south-east, surrounded by a wall and shallow ditch. They had the standard suite of rooms ranging from very hot to stone cold, and excavation showed them to have been the finest known in Wales after those of Caerleon, with painted plaster on some of the walls. There are two further parts to the complex, a pottery kiln found in the churchyard, and a roughly paved area, a presumed parade ground, to the north-east of the fort. Nearby is a cemetery and on Gelligaer Common are several small practice camps.

The fort's history is difficult to determine. It would appear that it was occupied until soon after AD160, when, like most other minor forts in the area, it seems to have been abandoned. However, finds of the 3rd and 4th centuries suggest some later, possibly civilian occupation, perhaps on a much reduced scale.

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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