The Roman fort at Llanfair-ar-y-bryn (‘The Churchyard on the Hill’) was estimated in 1873 to measure about 582 feet from north-east to south-west by 391 feet transversely (c.177 x 119 m), and therefore covered an area of about 5¼ acres (c.2.1 ha); it probably faced south-west. The defences consisted of a clay rampart fronted by double ditches on all sides except the north-east, where the almost level approach required up to 4 ditches. Two periods of construction were noted within the original defences, and during the second incarnation the clay rampart bank was revetted in stone.
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