Gelligaer Fort

Fort and Industry

Gelligaer Roman Fort is located on the hill top between the Taff and Rhymney. It is an Auxiliary Fort that was first excavated towards the end of the 19th century.

Flavian pottery suggests an early construction date for the original timber fort, which was replaced in stone around the turn of the second century, at the same time a bath-house was built within an annexe attached to the fort’s south-eastern defences. Antonine pottery dated c.170AD confirms a continuation of occupancy into these times. The well of the principia (regimental H.Q. building) in the centre of the fort was filled with debris around the period 196/7AD, which may indicate either demolition of the interior buildings by the Romans themselves as part of a planned withdrawal, or destruction of the fort by an enemy force. This was a particularly unsettled period of Romano-British history, and both of these scenario’s are possible. Either way, the fort was soon reoccupied, as the granaries were rebuilt sometime during the Severan period (c.197-211AD), and continued occupation at the fort is attested by the presence of third and fourth-century pottery found within the defences.

gelligaer (Glamorganshire; Fig. 6) is 404 by 385 feet externally, with a 20-foot composite rampart composed of a 4-foot revetment, 13 feet of clay, and a 3-foot inner revetment – the last an unusual detail. Its internal area is rather over 21 acres. It has four double gates, with guard-rooms, centrally placed in the sides; each passage-way is 11 feet wide. There is a single 20-foot ditch with a 5-foot berm. Inside, the buildings are all of stone. They include (beside the usual headquarters, commandant’s house. and granaries) six L-shaped barrack-blocks for the six centuries of a cohors quingenaria, and five other buildings for various other purposes. It was built between A.D. 103 and 112 and not occupied later than Hadrian’s reign. Outside the fort are a temporary camp, a gravelled parade ground, and an entrenched annexe containing a bath-house (Ward, The Roman Fort of gelligaer, 1903 : Haverfield, Military Aspects of Roman Wales, § xix).” (Collingwood, p.40)

Gelligaer literally meaning “grove by the fort”.

Epigraphic Evidence from gelligaer

RIB400 - Centurial stone

𐆛 DEMIO
The century of ... (built this).
The name has been miscopied.

RIB397 - Dedication to the Emperor Trajan

[...]ES DIVI
[...    ]ER TRAIANO
[...]RM DAC PONT
[...  ]RIB P P P COS V
[...]I
[...]
For the Emperor Caesar Nerva Trajan Augustus, conqueror of Germany, conqueror of Dacia, son of the deified Nerva, pontifex maximus, with tribunician power, father of his country, five times consul, four times acclaimed Imperator, the Second Legion Augusta (built this).
For a similar inscription from the north-west gate see RIB 399.As in the Caerleon inscription RIB 330, l. 5 is plainly a heavily indented and loosely filled line, ending with a numeral for which imp iiii seems the best solution. Trajan's fourth salutation fell in 102, the year of his conclusion of the First Dacian War.Line 6 presumably contained the name of the working unit, more widely spaced with no indentation in order to balance the first four lines. The name is not certain, but leg ii avg is very highly probable (cf RIB 330).A fragment, W 11.43 cm × H 20.32 cm m, from the top left-hand corner of this inscription was discovered in 1957 unstratified outside the south-east gate. It reads: Im[p(eratori) … | N͡e[r(vae). See JRS xlviii (1958) 151.

RIB399 - Inscription

[...]NO
[...  ]ONT
[...] V
[...]
For ... Trajan ... pontifex maximus, consul for the fifth time ..
For an apparently identical inscription on a tablet of similar ansate form from the south-east gate see RIB 397.

Other Nearby Roman Sites

There are several practice works in the immediate area of the gelligaer fort. There is also a large temporary marching camp some 9½ miles to the west at Twyn-y-Briddallt (ST0098).

References for Gelligaer

  • Caer Rufeinig Gelliger Roman Fort By Richard J Brewer, Amgueddfa Cymru “ National Museum Wales 2011 An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan by the RCAHMW (HMSO, Cardiff) vol.I, pt.ii, pp.95-8 & fig.53.
  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1965-1968 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lix (1969) p.126;
  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1958-1960 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. li (1961) p.126;
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930). 

Map References for Gelligaer

NGRef: ST1397 OSMap: LR171

OS National Grid Reference: ST134970
Dimensions: c.404 x 385 ft (c.123 x 117.3 m)
Area: c.3½ acres (c.1.44 ha)

Roman Roads near Gelligaer

S (6) to Caerphilly (Mid Glamorgan) NW (8) to Penydarren (Mid Glamorgan)