Sea Mills (Abona) Roman Port

Minor Settlement and Port

The name and location suggest that this was a river or sea port that probably served the nearby spa town of Aquae Sulis (Bath). It was situated near the mouth of the River Avon at the confluence with the River Trym, this major Romano-British settlement  The Roman settlement seems to have been abandoned by the 4th century, and there is no evidence of Saxon settlement. It was also known as Portus Abonae.

Five fragments of a limestone tombstone was found in 1873, in what was presumably a cemetery south of the town, at a site overlooking the railway station at Little Sneyd. The stone now resides in Bristol City Museum, the recorded visible text is shown and translated below.

RIB 137 - Funerary inscription for Spes

The ‘Hope’ of Gaius Sentius ..


The inscription has been interpreted as Mithraic by Coote, as Mithraic and Christian by McCaul, or as Christian by Scarth. But the star in the gable has no vertical stroke above the intersection, still less any trace of a loop to form a Chi-Rho. Franks considers that Spes was the name of the wife of G. Sentius. Indeed, Spes does occur as a masculine cognomen, ILS 1229, 1656, and as a feminine cognomen ILS 2875, 8006, 8009. Huebner (PSA, EE locc. cit.,) probably correctly considers that the daughter of G. Sentius is here described as her father’s ‘Hope’, shattered by death R.P.W.

Military artifacts indicate a fort on this site soon after the Roman invasion of A.D. 43. Stamped tiles of Legio II Augusta indicate a continuing military presence in the 2d c., perhaps supervising the shipping of supplies to garrisons in Wales. A civilian settlement also grew up, covering ca. 5.2 ha. The site was abandoned at the end of the Roman period.The two known streets suggest an irregular grid originating at the end of the 1st c. A number of civilian buildings have been excavated, including a row of three shops with stone foundations succeeding earlier timber structures. The defenses have yet to be discovered.

References for Abona

  • A Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain by Roger J.A. Wilson (Constable, London, 2002, 4th ed.);
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);

Map References for Abona

NGRef: ST5575 OSMap: LR172

Roman Roads near Abona

Iter XIV: ESE (8) to Traiectvs (Bitton nr. Willsbridge, Avon)

Sites near Sea Mills (Abona) Roman Port