Llandovery (Alabum) Roman Fort

Flavian Auxiliary Fort (AD 69–96)

Alabum (Llandovery), thought to that of an auxiliary fort, is located at a critical point in the mid-Wales road system, where the Roman roads from Trawscoed, Castell Collen, Carmarthen and Brecon meet. The fort is thought to be that of Alabum, established in the 70s AD during the Flavian advance. Two later phases are represented by a reduction in its size before abandonment around AD 130. Possible traces of an extramural settlement have been recorded to the north-east and place names below the fort to the south-east include ‘Cae Bricks’ and ‘Tre Goch’. A possible Roman fortlet (NPRN 309669) has been recorded at Blaenos, about 1.75km to the west.

The site consists of a rectangular enclosure, measuring some 180m north-east to south-west by 140m. The enclosure comprises two sections separated by a road which branches north from the A483 and joins it again some 400m further north-east. The enclosure’s well preserved western section is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, defined by scarped banks. It is located mainly to the north and west of St Mary’s Church (NPRN 103828). The eastern section extends some 70m south of St Mary’s church, and is delineated by the A483 to the east. It extends north to the point where the diverged road re-joins the A483.

A third century pottery sherd from the fort and fourth century material from the vicinity suggest later Roman activity in the area, though this may simply be the result of casual losses along the road. There are fragments of Roman tile in the walls of the church.

Classical References to Alabum (Llandovery)

The only classical reference we have which mentions the Roman name of this fort is the Ravenna Cosmology written in the seventh century. In this work a station named Alabvm or Alabum (R&C#55) appears between the entries for Bremia (Llanio, Dyfed) and Cicucium (Y-Gaer, Powys); the Alabum entry is thought to equate with Llandovery. The old Welsh name for the spot was Tre Coch or ‘The Red City’, due to the preponderance of red roofing tiles which have been unearthed here over the years.

The site is characteristic. Here several valleys meet, and in the midst is a gentle eminence now crowned by a church from which the ground falls sharply on almost every side. … Faint outlines of earthworks resembling the north-west corner of a fort are visible to the west of the church, and Roman tiles can be seen in its east and north walls.” (‘Carmarthen Inventory‘ p.92).

A vicar of Llandovery in the 18th century reported finds including a broken altarstone, lamps, potsherds, and coins of Constantine, also the remains of a bath-house, the exact whereabouts unreported. Another cleric in the 19th century found a copper coin of Claudius, a silver republican coin, and a piece of samian bearing a potter’s stamp reading either DISATI… or possibly DICATI… (reports are vague and the piece now lost). Various architectural remains found between the fort and the Afon Bran to the east suggest that the site of the associated bath-house lay somewhere in this area.

There is a small Roman fortlet nearby at Blaenos (SN7534) and another about six miles to the north-east at Abererbwll (SN8441). There are two marching camps and a practice work or unfinished camp at Y Pigwn (SN8231) on the Dyfed/Powys border, and another marching camp at Arhosfa’r Garreg (SN8026). A Roman milestone has also been found at Y Pigwn (SN8131), and a villa lies about seven miles to the south-west at Dyffryn Ceidrych (SN7025).

References for Alabum – (Llandovery)

  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1955-7 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xlviii (1958) p.96;
  • Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire – V County of Carmarthen by the RCAHMCWM (HMSO, London) pp.92-4 & fig.97;
  • Roman Britain by Peter Salway (Oxford 1981); Britannia i 1970 p.270;

Map References for Alabum – (Llandovery)

NGRef: SN7735 OSMap: LR146/160

OS National Grid Reference: SN769352
Dimensions: c.582 x 391 ft (c.177 x 119 m)
Area: c.5¼ acres (c.2.1 ha)

Roman Roads near Alabum – (Llandovery)

NE (15) to Caerav (Powys) SW (13.5) to Llandeilo NW (8) to Pvmsaint (Pumsaint, Dyfed) SE (5) to Y Pigwn (Dyfed/Powys) WSW (27) to Moridvnvm