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Name:Roman town at Great Casterton
HER Ref:MLE5294
Parish:Great Casterton, Rutland
Grid Reference:TF 001 089
Map:Coming soon

Monument Types

  • TOWN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Summary

Roman town, c.18 acres, surrounded by defensive earthworks. Extensive excavations were undertaken in the 1950s recording houses and industrial remains. To the north of the ramparts are pottery kilns and a cemetery site. A fort lies adjacent to the town.

Additional Information

Great Casterton is a small Roman town at the junction of Tixover Road/Ermine Street (MLE5425/MLE5748).
Roman fort constructed, in use AD40s-80s (MLE5293). The town may have begun as a vicus to the south-west of the fort. Early buildings were of wood with the exception of the stone bath house (MLE5285), which may have been part of a mansio alongside Ermine Street. Excavation in 2004/5 recorded 3 crouched burials that appeared to be Late Iron Age/Early Roman in date (MLE16836).
The town defences were built in the late C2nd/early C3rd (MLE8776), consisting of a wall and an earthern bank. Stone buildings constructed within these defences have been excavated. (MLE17238, MLE19783)
North of the town six pottery kilns have been excavated, late C2nd/early C3rd in date, producing pottery including colour-coated wares (MLE16838, MLE20102, MLE21758, MLE5303).
The defences were reorganised in the C4th, and stone bastions were added in the late C4th.
To the north-east of the town excavation has recorded C3rd/C4th farm buildings and a late C4th villa complex (MLE5296).
Outside the north gate of the town lay an extensive cemetery (c.170 burials), late C3rd/C4th in date (MLE16836). A rare shackled burial was recorded to the west of this, dated to 226-427AD (MLE21951).
Settlement appears to have continued in some form into the C5th; an Anglo-Saxon cemetery was recorded close to the Roman cemetery (MLE5304), with 35 cremation burials and 15 inhumations.

In February 1965 a trench down the east side of the main road revealed a north/south Roman wall c.12' down, partly ashlar faced and partly rubble but obviously from some reasonably important building. 20-30' length seen, opposite eastern end of church. (JLB 14/04/61) (See MLE17239)

A Republican denarius dating 58BC was noted from TF 001 090. It was found with other coins, pottery etc by RFRG amongst material dumped from construction of a new farmhouse at Bridge Farm, 1987. (RCM records) (See MLE17240)

In 1949 'JCB' in the Stamford Mercury noted hundreds of coins picked up, a burial with lachrymatory found in 1874 and a coin hoard of c.60 coins in an urn found during restoration of the Plough Inn (SK 990 091) (SK90 NE AL).

A watching brief was carried out at Ryhall Road by SR and NC of LAU on 15/09/93. They observed a wall that may be Roman and recovered Roman pottery. (A266.1993)


<1> Corder, Philip (Ed), 1951, The Roman Town and Villa at Great Casterton, Rutland, p1-14 (Bibliographic reference). SLE1479.

In 1951 Corder summarised previous knowledge of Great Casterton Roman town. Camden, Horsley, Stukeley, all note the site. Stukeley reports that foundations of a wall were dug up in Castle Close. Trollope notes coins of Pompey, Nero, Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Severus, Claudius Gothicus, Maximinian and Constantine.
Corder excavated a section across the rampart/wall in 1950. (See MLE8776)

<2> Corder, Philip (Ed), 1954, The Roman Town and Villa at Great Casterton, Rutland: Second interim report for the years 1951-1953, p1-10 (Bibliographic reference). SLE1477.

Corder excavated six sections across the wall and one long trench across the ditches in 1951-3. (See MLE8776)

<3> Corder, Philip (Ed), 1961, The Roman Town and Villa at Great Casterton, Rutland: Third report for the years 1954-1958, p1-58 (Bibliographic reference). SLE907.

Excavation continued to 1958. The area of the town was estimated as c.18 acres.
Excavations took place on the unknown W defences in the Rectory hen-run) where the inner ditch was found. On the eastern side, 4 bastions were found and excavated. They were built post-354 AD. (See MLE8776)
In 1956 over 700' of trial trenches were dug within the town and in 1957 a further 124', with two areas excavated in 1958. Six stone structures were found. 63 coins and 44 small finds were found, including 4 brooches and 2 spoons. (See MLE17238)
In 1958 north of the church a trench 3'6" long and 115' wide was cut and revealed a stone-built bath house. (See MLE5285)

<4> Mahaney, C, 1974, Archaeological Excavations 1973, p55-6 (Bibliographic reference). SLE6160.

In 1973 CM excavated a trial trenching at 'The Limes' in the centre of the town. She found medieval/post-medieval remains that cut soil with much C2nd/C3rd pottery. Beneath this layer were Roman rubbish pits of C2nd/C3rd date. Also found was a 3' wide trench containing Roman pottery marked '1956', evidently a legacy of the Summer School. (See MLE17242)

<5> 1981-2, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, Volume 57, Vol 57 (1982), p92 (Journal). SLE5952.

Bronze coin of Gratian found in the churchyard. (See MLE8097)

<6> Browning, J, 1998, An archaeological evaluation on land at Home Farm, Great Casterton, Rutland. (Unpublished document). SLE1573.

Trial trenching in 1998 at Home Farm recorded a possible Roman burial. (See MLE8526)

<7> 1992, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, Volume 66, Vol 66 (1992), p185 (Journal). SLE5935.

August 1991. A short evaluation was carried out at Healey's Yard by LAU. Archaeological layers were destroyed by modern disturbance in one box but in the other two they survived as cut features. Two courses of a probable Roman wall were discovered. A possible construction trench was identified north of it. Part of a circular feature was also located, probably Roman. (See MLE17243)

<8> Beamish, M, 1992, An archaeological evaluation at Strawsons Yard, Great Casterton, Rutland (Unpublished document). SLE1557.

An archaeological evaluation in 1992 at Strawson's Yard revealed evidence of Roman occupation on the site. (See MLE5305)

<9> Warren, Sally, 1995, A watching brief at bridge Farm, Ryhall Road, Great Casterton (Unpublished document). SLE1564.

In 1995 a watching brief at Bridge Farm, Ryhall Road, produced Roman pits and very fragmentary remains of what may be the rampart. Sections only could be recorded as slit trenches were machine dug. (A31.1995)

<10> Pollard, R, 1995, Survey at Bridge Farm Ryhall Road, Great Casterton, Rutland. (Unpublished document). SLE1576.

Site visit to Bridge Farm by RJP Dec 95/Jan 96 - following up work described previously. Drystone wall (modern) partly removed from truncated cross-section of rampart, no clear section revealed. (See MLE17243)

<11> Young, Jenny, 1999, An archaeological watching brief at the Limes, Old Great North Road, Great Casterton, Rutland (Unpublished document). SLE1575.

Watching brief during excavation of footings for a tractor shed identified the remains of a late Roman robber trench and gully with associated C4th pottery. These features were only partly revealed by the development, though they must represent evidence for occupation at the centre of the walled town. The ground level in the area appeared to have been lowered and the Roman remains were at shallow depth, directly beneath a recent surface of crushed limestone. (See MLE17242)

<12> Hunt, L, 2010, An archaeological investigation (strip, plan and sample) at Willow House, Strawson's Farmyard, Old Great North Road, Great Casterton, Rutland (Unpublished document). SLE3034.

Further fieldwork at Strawson's Yard in 2010 recovered three sherds of greyware pottery. (See MLE5305)

<13> Henley, Sarah, 2012, Archaeological Evaluation Report: A Roman boundary ditch and medieval building at The Old Rectory, Great Casterton (Unpublished document). SLE3927.

Trial trenching in 2012 recorded part of the Roman boundary ditch (see MLE8776).
Report is in ADS Library: 10.5284/1030512 - http://dx.doi.org/10.5284/1030512

<14> 2013, Rutland Record, Volume 33, Vol 33 (2013), p135 (Journal). SLE4644.

Also published in 'Rutland Record'.

<15> Burnham, BC & Wacher, JS, 1990, The Small Towns of Roman Britain, p130-135 (Bibliographic reference). SLE6161.

The town probably began as a vicus outside the military fort (40s-80s AD). An early Flavian timber building was located inside the defences in 1956, suggesting a vicus outside the south-western defences of the fort. The bath house excavated in 1958 appears to pre-date the defences (late C1st AD), perhaps forming part of a mansio complex alongside Ermine Street. (This is the only known stone building pre-dating the defences.)
Excavation seems to suggest that the town defences were built in the late C2nd, though this is early - an early to mid C3rd date would be expected. There was a single-phase wall measuring c.2.1m wide, with an earthen bank behind.
North of the town defences pottery kilns have been recorded, producing colour-coated wares, apparently from the mid C2nd to the early C3rd.
In the C4th the defences were reorganised, with external towers added. Coins suggest a date after the mid AD 350s for these bastions. A new house was erected on the villa site north-east of the town at this time, with a south wing and bath house added c.AD 370-80.
The cemetery to the north appears to date from the later C3rd to mid C4th, though Anglo-Saxon burials have also been noted, suggesting the town continued to be occupied into the C5th.

<16> Bowman P and Liddle P (ed), 2004, Leicestershire Landscapes, p65-66 (Roman Small Towns in Leics and Rutland, P Liddle) (Bibliographic reference). SLE3050.

"Great Casterton is the other Leicestershire site considered by Burnham and Wacher (1990, 130-5). Roman defences and finds have long been known but the first modern work was carried out at University of Nottingham Summer Schools in the 1950s led by Philip Corder (1951, 1954, 1961). The earliest phase of settlement appears to be a Roman fort, immediately east of the later town (although a recent evaluation found a small amount of Iron Age pottery within the town defences).The fort was occupied from the 40s to the 80s AD (Todd 1968).The town defences enclose some 7.3 ha and were built in the late 2nd century. Corder trenched extensively within the defences but did not find any streets and he described the density of occupation as ‘rather sparse’. However, only 1-2% of the interior was examined and six stone structures were revealed, while the Ermine Street frontage - where most structures would be expected - was hardly touched. Much slag was found as well as two pottery kilns producing colour-coated wares of the second half of the 2nd century to the north of the defences. A recent evaluation has produced evidence of bronze working. A cemetery also lay north of the defences and this also produced early Anglo-Saxon burials (Mahany and Grainger, unpublished).
"The reason for the provision of defences enclosing a large proportion of this settlement in contrast to all the other Leicestershire small town sites is quite unknown. It may be because it had a higher status, perhaps as a pagus centre (a subdivision of a civitas), or because a strategic decision had been made to defend settlements along Ermine Street. Substantial stone buildings, including a bathhouse, are known just inside the south gate, perhaps associated with a mansio. A large villa complex is known some 800m to the northeast."

Sources

<1>Bibliographic reference: Corder, Philip (Ed). 1951. The Roman Town and Villa at Great Casterton, Rutland. p1-14.
<2>Bibliographic reference: Corder, Philip (Ed). 1954. The Roman Town and Villa at Great Casterton, Rutland: Second interim report for the years 1951-1953. p1-10.
<3>Bibliographic reference: Corder, Philip (Ed). 1961. The Roman Town and Villa at Great Casterton, Rutland: Third report for the years 1954-1958. p1-58.
<4>Bibliographic reference: Mahaney, C. 1974. Archaeological Excavations 1973. p55-6.
<5>Journal: 1981-2. Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, Volume 57. Vol 57 (1982), p92.
<6>Unpublished document: Browning, J. 1998. An archaeological evaluation on land at Home Farm, Great Casterton, Rutland..
<7>Journal: 1992. Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, Volume 66. Vol 66 (1992), p185.
<8>Unpublished document: Beamish, M. 1992. An archaeological evaluation at Strawsons Yard, Great Casterton, Rutland.
<9>Unpublished document: Warren, Sally. 1995. A watching brief at bridge Farm, Ryhall Road, Great Casterton.
<10>Unpublished document: Pollard, R. 1995. Survey at Bridge Farm Ryhall Road, Great Casterton, Rutland..
<11>Unpublished document: Young, Jenny. 1999. An archaeological watching brief at the Limes, Old Great North Road, Great Casterton, Rutland.
<12>Unpublished document: Hunt, L. 2010. An archaeological investigation (strip, plan and sample) at Willow House, Strawson's Farmyard, Old Great North Road, Great Casterton, Rutland.
<13>Unpublished document: Henley, Sarah. 2012. Archaeological Evaluation Report: A Roman boundary ditch and medieval building at The Old Rectory, Great Casterton.
<14>Journal: 2013. Rutland Record, Volume 33. Vol 33 (2013), p135.
<15>Bibliographic reference: Burnham, BC & Wacher, JS. 1990. The Small Towns of Roman Britain. p130-135.
<16>Bibliographic reference: Bowman P and Liddle P (ed). 2004. Leicestershire Landscapes. p65-66 (Roman Small Towns in Leics and Rutland, P Liddle).

Associated Finds

    None recorded

Designations

  • Conservation Area: Great Casterton
  • Scheduled Monument 1005067: AIR PHOTOGRAPHY SITE NE OF VILLAGE AND SITE OF ROMAN TOWN