The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust
Historic Environment Record
 

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Nidum Roman Fort (Neath)

Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 00620w
Trust : Glamorgan Gwent
Community : Blaenhonddan
NGR : SS74749773
Site Type (preferred type first) : Roman Fort
Legal Protection : scheduled ancient monument

Summary :
Several excavations have revealed the presence of the Roman Fort Nidum in Neath. The fort started as a timber building which was then abandoned, but later replaced by a stone structure, which was also left to ruin some time during post-Roman period.

Description :
The archaeological evidence hints at pre-Flavian activity at Neath (Heywood & Marvell 1992, 175), but the first large-scale occupation appears to have begun with the establishment of a large earth and timber fort in c AD 75-80, most probably as part of the Frontinian campaigns.
The first installation on the site was superseded by a second, smaller fort, also with earth and timber defences, at some point after AD 80. Following a short period of abandonment around AD 110-115, the fort was refurbished, the defences and possibly also some of the internal buildings being reconstructed in stone. This latter event has been dated to c AD 117-120/5, but the reoccupation appears short-lived, with a probable abandonment of the site not later than AD 125. Pottery and coins attest to limited occupation at some point in the broad period AD 140-170, and as with other forts in the region, some form of late 3rd or early 4th century activity has also been detected. This latter activity was perhaps military in character, but this is not yet proven.
The first fort, rectangular and possibly 3.3ha in extent, was defended by a combined rampart and ditch system and it is likely that this work was carried out in two phases. Where excavated on the northwest side, the first phase rampart proved to be made from a mixture of clay and turf at the front and rear and a core of soil, probably dug from the ditches. Between the front of the rampart and the ditches was a berm, and there were three ditches. At some stage a new front was built onto the existing rampart taking up the space of the berm, and in places overlying the original cut of the innermost ditch, to increase the width of the rampart. The new clay and turf front to the rampart was supported on a stone foundation kerb, bedded on timber and cobbles, and strengthened with vertical and horizontal timber lacing. About half way between the north-east gate and the corner of the fort three large post-holes were found for what is presumed to be three of the corners of a tower, with the fourth corner unclear. Two of these posts were set into the front edge of the second phase rampart, where they interrupted the stone foundation, but the other two were outside, among the ditches. There were ovens against the back of the rampart along with traces of ephemeral buildings, and the via sagularis ran around the inside. The only other internal building to have been excavated had a central courtyard surrounded by an ambulatory and with ranges of rooms on at least two sides. It was of post-trench construction and probably represents the praetorium.

The second fort was square, with an area of 2.3ha. The rampart on the northeast side was retained, with some minor modification, but that on the southwest, southeast and northwest sides was newly construct in clay, presumably with turf cheeks, and there was a berm and a single ditch. The defences were reconstructed in stone in the early decades of the 2nd century, as a stone wall over clay and cobble footings. This wherever seen appears to be freestanding and replaced the rampart, which was slighted. In the north corner of the fort part of an angle tower projecting into the fort was of one build with this wall. The whole of the southeast gate has been excavated and laid out. It consists of a double carriageway entrance, with two flanking guard chambers; the line of the ditch is visible in front, extending unbroken across the entrance and presumably crossed by a bridge. Half of the southwest gate can also be seen. The corners are formed by large ashlar blocks of sandstone; similar blocks were found marking one corner of the opposite, northeast gate. Very few internal buildings have been excavated, consisting only of what appears to part of the courtyard of the principia, and three successive barracks. These were constructed in timber, with wattle-and-daub over wooden sill-beams, and the latest is Antonine.
Marvell 2010

The Roman fort was situated on a low plateau on the western bank of the River Neath. It now lies on the outskirts of the present town, now partly overlain by housing (to the south of Neath Abbey Road), and by the playing fields of Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive School. The fort was first discovered by Nash-Williams (1950) in the late 1940s, and further excavation by Heywood in 1958, Marvell in 1984-5 and Marvell & Maynard in 1989 explored the defences and revealed parts of the interior plan and occupation sequence (Heywood & Marvell 1992).
The archaeological evidence hints at pre-Flavian activity at Neath (Heywood & Marvell 1992, 175), but the first large-scale occupation appears to have begun with the establishment of a large earth and timber fort in c AD 75-80, most probably as part of the Frontinan campaigns.
The first installation on the site was superseded by a slightly smaller fort, also with earth and timber defences, at some point after AD 80. Following a short period of abandonment around AD 110-115, the fort was refurbished, the defences and possibly also some of the internal buildings being reconstructed in stone. This latter event has been dated to c AD 117-120/5, but the reoccupation appears short-lived, with a probable abandonment of the site not later than AD 125. Pottery and coins attest to limited occupation at some point in the broad period AD 140-170, and as with other forts in the region, some form of late 3rd or early 4th century activity has also been detected. This latter activity was perhaps military in character, but this is not yet proven.
Pearson 2002, 24
The watching brief commissioned on behalf of Transco for the gas pressure induction station discovered a Roman cut feature, probably a pit or ditch 0.90m below the present surface. Roman roof tiles and ceramics were also discovered at this site (Sell 2002).
The watching brief carried out on Neath Port Talbot College for their Electronic Learning centre uncovered a small area of sandstone slabs forming the remnants of a paved area just to the southeast of the building footprint. the alignment appeared to be almost north to south. a small quantity of fired clay possibly represents a wattle and daub wall forming an internal partition within the building represented by these slabs. In style and technique this structure would fit comfortably within a Roman setting and probably represents part of the floor of a substantial building, related to the vicus located approximately 40m to the southeast (Sell 2003).

Sources :
Cadw , Application for Scheduled Monument Consent
Cadw , Application for Scheduled Monument Consent
Marvell, A. and Heywood, B. , 1992 , Excavations at Neath , The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies : 39 : 171-208
Marvell, A.G , 2010 , Neath
N Maylan , 2007 , Digital photographs (87)
,
Sell, S , 2000 , Neath Roman Fort SAM Gm 215 Proposed Classroom, Neath College, Archaeological Field Evaluation
Sell, S , 2003 , Neath Port Talbot College Electronic Learning Centre: archaeological watching brief
Sell, S , 2002 , Neath College gas pressure induction station: archaeological watching brief
01/Desc Text/Cadw/Full Management Report/2005/Copy in further information file

Events :
E000451 : NIDUM ROMAN FORT (NEATH), PARTIAL EXCAVATION, 1949-50 (year : 1949-50)
E003108 : Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath Port Talbot, 2009 (year : 2009)
E001561 : Excavation at Nidum Roman Fort, Neath, 1989 (year : 1989)
E003372 : Excavation of Neath Roman Fort, 1984-85 (year : 1984-85)
E003373 : Excavation at Dwr-y-Felin, Neath, 1958 (year : 1958)
E003374 : Evaluation at Cwrt Herbert playing field, Neath, 1993 (year : 1993)
E003375 : Geophysical Survey of Dwr-y-felin playing field, 2003 (year : 2003)
E003433 : Watching Brief at Dwr-y-Felin school, car park extension, 2006 (year : 2006)
E003434 : Watching Brief at Dwr-y-Felin school, 2006 (year : 2006)
E003435 : Excavation at Dwr-y-Felin school, 2006 (year : 2006)
E003436 : Evaluation of pipe line trench at Dwr-y-Felin school (year : 2010)
E003437 : Excavation at Dwr-y-Felin school, Neath, 2010-11 (year : 2010-2011)
E003438 : Evaluation at Dwr-y-Felin school, Neath, 2005 (year : 2005)
E003443 : Excavation at Dwr-y-Felin school, Neath, 2004 (year : 2004)
E003444 : Dwr-y-Felin school, Neath, 1962 drainage trench (year : 1962)
E002587 : Neath Port Talbot College Creche EVAL (year : 2001)
E002602 : Neath Roman Fort SAM Gm 215 EVAL (year : 2000)
E004608 : Neath College gas pressure induction (year : 2002)
E004608 : Neath College gas pressure induction (year : 2002)
E004609 : Neath Port Talbot College Electronic Learning Centre (year : 2003)
E004609 : Neath Port Talbot College Electronic Learning Centre (year : 2003)
E004705 : Watching brief at Neath Port Talbot College Electronic Learning Centre (year : 2003)

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