Excavating the Roman fort at Neath

The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeolgical Trust is currently carrying out an excavation at Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive Upper School, Neath,

for Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council. A large L-shaped area is being fully investigated before a new teaching block is built on the site.

GGAT archaeologist excavating the remains of the Roman fort's defences.

GGAT archaeologist excavating the remains of the Roman fort's defences.

The development area lies immediately north of the Roman fort of Nidum (Neath), which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (Gm215). The scheduled area is known to cover almost the entire northern half of the stone-built fort. The southern part of the fort is now under housing (apart from two of the gates which were preserved when the houses were built), but the scheduled area also includes the earlier timber phases of the fort, which was larger than the stone successor. Recent investigations have proved that substantial remains of buildings and roads of Roman date existed outside of the fort’s stone defences, probably part of a vicus (a settlement of civilians) outside the fort. A recent investigation of the northeast defences identified the previously undiscovered northeast gate of the fort.

So far, the excavation team has identified major elements of a 1st century fort (or perhaps two successive forts), and possible late Roman activity in the vicus. Discoveries include part of the northeast defences – a large double ditch and rampart – with an external road and a possible internal tower. Several bread ovens have been identified between the rampart and the via sagularis that runs along the inside of the defences. There are also several timber buildings.

At the western side of the excavation, the team has found the point at which the road came in from the north, running straight towards the centre of the fort. We do not know how it crossed the ditches, whether it was by means of a causeway or a timber bridge. A geophyical survey was carried out in 2003 on this side of the fort and picked up the road and the defences, but the results of the excavation show that they were not quite as the survey had suggested.

The stone foundation for the turf facing of the rampart running across the site.

Remains of the rampart being uncovered during the early phase of the excavation.

Remains of the rampart being uncovered during the early phase of the excavation.

A GGAT archaeologist excavating one of the Roman bread ovens discovered on the site.

A GGAT archaeologist excavating one of the Roman bread ovens discovered on the site.

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5 comments

  1. How does the alignment of the road heading off the high ground from Onllwyn match up with the fort North gate, is it possible to establish the route between these known points.

    1. Alun, thank you for your comments and apologies for the delay in responding. The Roman road (Sarn Helen) from the fort at Coelbren does follow the high ground as you indicated and then drops down into Neath. This road connects to the fort’s NE gate rather than the north gate. It would appear, based on the excavated evidence, that there was no formal road exiting the 1st century timber fort at Neath. The area around the north gate is finely metalled and the defences here are extensive, perhaps indicating that this side (north) of the fort faced a “no mans land” where the defences needed bolstering. We did excavate a much later road out from the north gate but that is likely to be associated with the 2nd century stone fort. Many thanks, Richard Lewis

  2. Hi I found some interesting marks on google earth up on the local mountain and I was told they are possibly an old defensive fort that has been expanded over time, u can’t see it on the ground but u can from the air, I cannot find anything about the site and was just wondering how I can find out more about the site. Hope u can help

      1. I’ve looked on the web site and the sites that I no of are not on there and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find any info and there’s nothing so I think these sites I no for are unknown sites, any help u can give to identify them be great, thanks

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