Tripontium – The Place of the Three Bridges
The only classical reference which mentions the name of the Roman fortified settlement at Cave's Inn in Warwickshire is the Antonine Itinerary of the late-second century. Iter VI of this document lists the road stations along the route from London to Lincoln, which travels along Watling Street for part of the way. Itinerary Six contains the name Tripontio, listed 12 miles from Bannaventa (Whilton Lodge, Northamptonshire) and 8 miles from Venonis (High Cross, Leicestershire). The name is purely Latin in form, from the words tres 'three' and pontis 'bridges'; these Three Bridges would presumably be:
- Over the River Swift about 2 miles (c.3km) north-west of the settlement.
- A light bridge across an unnamed tributary stream of the River Avon, immediately outside the settlement's south-east defences.
- Across the River Avon itself at Dow Bridge, about a mile to the south-east of the town beyond Catthorpe Ridge.
The Civilian Settlement
Excavation and observation in advance of quarrying established that the Roman settlement of Tripontium extended around 230 feet (70m) to either side of Watling Street for a length of c.1.1 miles (1.80km). The site lies in farmland between the villages of Churchover, Shawell, Catthorpe and Newton and is crossed by a disused railway-line now a nature trail. It stretched roughly from the south side of the modern M6 motorway bridge north-westwards over the bridge along the modern A5 trunk road past the turn-off south, to Coton Farm and Newton to a point halfway between that junction and the Gibbet Hill (A426) roundabout.
Earliest occupation is indicated by Flavian Samian pottery (late-1st century), and the site continued to be occupied into the late fourth century. The latest coin is of Valentinian I (rexit A.D.365-375). Direct evidence for on-site iron-smelting has been recovered from at least one excavated site, and iron slag has been found in several more areas within the settlement.
A rectangular area lying astride Watling Street and measuring about 455 x 375 feet (139 x 114 metres) was enclosed by a defensive ditch 23 feet (7m) wide and 10 feet (3m) deep having a varying V or U-shaped profile. It is possible that the ditch was surmounted by a clay-rampart. The exact construction date of this enclosure is unproven, though it is thought to date from late third century to the middle of the fourth.
At least thirty inhumations have been recovered from the site and its environs, mostly lying outside the defenses to the north, west and east, although three have been recovered from within the enclosure to the west of Watling Street.
“[Property of] the Company at Lutudarum. British [lead] from the silver-works.”
(RIB ?; lead ingot)
- The Lutudarum silver/lead mines were situated at Crich near Pentrich in Derbyshire.
Excavations at Tripontium in 1970
(a) the south entrance of the 4th century defended enclosure was located during widening of the modern A5 road. If the two entrances were central, the area enclosed by the ditch was 1.4 ha (3.4 acres). In the upper levels of the ditch-filling was found a belt-buckle of late Roman military type which can be dated to the late-4th and early-5th centuries.
(b) About 80m further south a 3rd-century bath-house was investigated. The floors had later been raised 0.5 m., but no other alterations were evident. The later occupation yielded 40 coins of the time of Constantine.” (Britannia, 1971)
References for Tripontivm
Britannia ii (1971) p.263.Britannia ii (1971) p.263. Britannia ii (1971) p.263.Britannia ii (1971) p.263.