New Weir Riverside Roman Site, The Weir, Swainshill

Record ID:  70099 / MNA143416
Record type:  Monument
Protected Status: Scheduled Monument
NT Property:  The Weir; Midlands
Civil Parish:  None Recorded
Grid Reference:  SO 4371 4180
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Summary

Roman riverside site including remains of stone buildings and structures. First discovered by antiquarians in the 1890s and more fully excavated in 1977, 1990s, and 2014. The site received scheduled status in 1978. Originally thought to be a villa or shrine complex but now interpreted as a bath house site.

Identification Images (0)

Monument Types

  • VILLA (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • SHRINE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BATH HOUSE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BUILDING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • MOSAIC (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Description

The Roman site is a terrace in the scarp on the north bank of the River Wye about 1 km south-west of Kenchester. The terrace, which is on the spring line, is probably natural; it is revetted by a stone wall standing in places 4m high (77125). An octagonal stone cistern (77124) was discovered in 1891 and is still visible. Trial excavations have found Roman tile, pottery, painted wall plaster and tesserae. Part of a tessellated pavement was found in situ. The springs, which are tufaceous, and the cistern may suggest a bath-house or a temple site.

The site is on the outer bank of a wide curve of the River Wye. The river consequently has eroded the bank, which is held in places by tree roots and vegetation. Much more flooding and the bank will collapse. The difficulty arises because of springs whose water undermine the banks - one of those near the well is causing the bank to slip away in a considerable section. A lot of stone is exposed. The remains of the revetments and the well are in a reasonable condition. The area is grassed with flowers and planted in the grass, and scattered bushes and trees, which should be removed to prevent root damage which apparently has not hitherto occurred. The garden is open to the public at certain times in the summer. At other times access can only be gained via the house. It is a noted angling site on the River Wye. The stonework at river level is variously described as a bathhouse, quay or bridge. The course of the Roman road passing east of nearby Kenchester Magnis site is in line with this. There are two wells marked on the map, the most southerly one is covered by a brick pump house, the other is a sunk basin of 4 stone steps with an unvarying shallow water level at the bottom.

(1) The remains are marked on the OS 6' map (1938) as Roman Masonry. They are described and illustrated in the Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club (Hereford) after their discovery in 1891 and further investigation in 1893. The field club concluded that the buttresses represented the remains of a quay of medieval rather than Roman date [SNA62388]

(2) Shoesmith records in 1977 that 'some years ago' Mr Morris, the life occupant of the New Weir house together with the late owner Mr Parr did some digging and discovered 'bits of mosaic paving' which were either 'returned to the earth or sent to the local museum' [SNA62387]

Trial excavations in 1977, showed that there is a complex of rooms surrounding the buttresses and that they include at least one mosaic. A further complex surrounds the cistern and tesserae from the area suggest further pavements. Between he two areas, debris suggested they were joined by a corridor or a further range of rooms. The restricted topography of the site means that a standard design of buildings could not be expected, but it is suggested that there is the remains of a long range of buildings, parallel to the river. It was thought unlikely that these buildings were for a farm or villa, rather, due to its location close to the river and calcareous springs and less than a mile form Kentchester, the site was interpreted as a temple with associated residential buildings. [SNA62387]

(3) By the late 1980s it was clear that parts of the site was being damaged by the river, and so during 1991 and 1995 Cotswold Archaeology Trust (CAT) undertook a programme of archaeological fieldwork on the Roman riverside complex to assess the damage and devise a plan to save the structures. The work involved topographic, geophysical and riverbed surveys, standing structure recording. A small structure, near the top of the north buttress was recorded which looked like it was for an earlier hydraulic ram (which pre-dated the one built in 1891). It was noted that this structure was constructed out of re-used Roman building material. Stone building blocks were also recorded next to the north butress which were thought to be the remains of large stairs leading down to the water's edge. Small sections of wall and piles of roof tiles were also seen sticking out from the river bank below the terrace, and stone building blocks were found on the river bed in 1995 whilst a protective 'apron' was built along the base of the buttressess to protect them from the river. A small-scale excavation above the north buttress was also carried out by CAT in 1995 which uncovered a small room and doorway.

(4) In July 2014 LP-Archaeology excavated four trenches and a transect of auger holes were bored to assess the condition of the Roman remains in the scheduled area. The first trench in the west of the site revealed part of an opus signinum bath. Opus signinum is a type of waterproof concrete that was used by the Romans to make baths and also harbours. A second trench just to the east of the first uncovered a section of black and white mosaic that had first been discovered in 1977. These remains indicate that the building is a bathhouse and not a villa or shrine as previously suggested. A trench in the north of the site was excavated to see if the building extended away from the river and was hidden under a build up of hillwash. However, no building remains were found in the trench and the slope in that part of the site was just natural rock. A trench adjacent to the cistern showed that the surrounding deposits are severely disturbed and the relationship between the bathhouse and the cistern is unlikely to survive.

References

  • SNA62386 - National Trust Report: Shoesmith, R and Boulton, M G. 1977. Roman Masonry at New Weir, Herefordshire: Interim Report.

  • SNA62387 - National Trust Report: Shoesmith, R and Boulton, M G. 1977. The Roman Buildings at New Weir, Herefordshire, Report on Trial Excavations 1977: Interim report.

  • SNA62388 - National Trust Report: Anon. 1892. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club (Herefordshire). Vol 1893-94 pp56-60.

  • SNA62388 - National Trust Report: Anon. 1892. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club (Herefordshire). Vol 1890-92 pp244-46.

  • SNA62388 - National Trust Report: Anon. 1892. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club (Herefordshire).

  • SNA62389 - Article in serial: Graeme Walker. 1995. The Weir Gardens, Swainshill, Hereford.

  • SNA62390 - Article in serial: Shoesmith, R. 1980. The Roman buildings at New Weir, Herefordshire. 43.

  • SNA62391 - Correspondence: Payne, Andrew. 1991. Letter from Andrew Payne at the AML to Philip Claris re geophysical survey at the Weir. 18/09/1991.

  • SNA65962 - National Trust Report: Williams, Matthew. 2014. Archaeological Evaluation Report: The Weir Gardens, Swainshill, Herefordshire.

  • SNA66167 - National Trust Report: Barber, A. and Walker, G.. 1995. The Weir Garden, Swainshill, Hereford: Archaeological Fieldwork 1991-1995.

  • SZK48100 - Unpublished document: English Heritage. 18/1/1999. English Heritage SAM notes.

Designations

Other Statuses and References

None Recorded

Associated Events

  • ENA4249 - Archaeological Intervention, Trial Excavations at The Weir
  • ENA4250 - Archaeological Intervention, Antiquarian discovery of Roman Remains at the Weir, Swainshill (1891)
  • ENA4251 - Archaeological Intervention, Antiquarian investigation of the Roman Buttresses at the Weir, Swainshill (1893)
  • ENA4254 - Archaeological Intervention, Resistivity survey at The Weir
  • ENA4255 - Archaeological Intervention, Resistivity survey at The Weir Garden
  • ENA4263 - Archaeological Intervention, Archaeological Assessment and Field Evaluation at The Weir, Herefordshire
  • ENA4266 - Field Survey, Walkover Survey of The Weir, Herefordshire
  • ENA4268 - Field Survey, Earthwork Survey of The Weir, Herefordshire
  • ENA7559 - Archaeological Intervention, Archaeological Evaluation for The Weir Gardens, Swainshill, Herefordshire (Ref: LP1716M-AER-v1.2)
  • ENA7724 - Archaeological Intervention, Archaeological Fieldwork at The Weir Garden, Swainshill, Herefordshire: 1991-1995 (Ref: 0156)

Associated Finds

None Recorded

Related Records

  • Parent of: Cistern, New Weir Roman Site, The Weir, Swainshill (Monument) - 77124 / MNA148962
  • Parent of: Stone buttresses, New Weir Roman Site, The Weir, Swainshill (Monument) - 77125 / MNA148963