Ad Ansam Roman Settlement

Minor Settlement

There is a station in Iter IX of the Antonine Itinerary named Ad Ansam (The Place Before the Stour), which is listed 15 miles from Combretovium (Baylham House, Suffolk) and 6 miles from Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex). Most of the stations mentioned in the Ninth Itinerary are repeated in the Peutinger Table of the eleventh century, with only minor or explainable differences in place-name spelling and distance measurements; the place-name is identical to that in Iter IX likewise the distance to the Baylham House station, though the reported distance to Colchester is only 5 miles.

The Latin name Ad Ansam has a literal meaning ‘before the opportunity’, which does not make a lot of sense. The second word however, may be a proper noun, possibly the ancient name for the River Stour, in which case the name may be translated ‘In front of the Stour’. I recollect reading somewhere that the Stour used to be called the Ansrum, which fits in nicely with this theory, but I cannot recall the original source of the information.

The distances stated in these ancient geographical sources would seem to place the Ad Ansam station somewhere in the vicinity of Stratford St. Mary in Suffolk, seemingly on the south bank of the Stour, between the river and a tributary stream. There is, however, a very suspicious ninety-degree bend in the old A12 road in the middle of the village itself on the north bank of the Stour, which is reminiscent of the situation at Drumburgh in Cumbria, where the modern minor road takes a right-angle bend within the defences of the former Concavata fort on Hadrian’s Wall; it is possible that the same situation exists at Stratford St. Mary.

There is, however, further evidence of Roman occupation at Capel St. Mary (TM0836), about four miles north-east of Stratford St. Mary along the A12, which overlies the original Roman road. A Roman wall footing, cremation-burials and a number of storage pits, including one filled with iron slag, were uncovered during pipe-laying and road-widening work carried out between 1949 and 1969. There is a problem identifying this lone building with the Ad Ansam station though, as it lies almost exactly nine miles from both Baylham House and Colchester, and does not conform to the milage stated in the geographies.

A substantial Roman building, possibly a villa, lies about 1.4km north-east of the settlement site at Capel St. Mary, excavation of which has revealed painted wall-plaster, glass tesserae, window glass and a pair of bronze figurines in the form of crouching lions.

References for Ad Ansam – (The Place) Before the Stour

Roman Britain by Peter Salway (Oxford 1981).

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