Braughing Roman Trading Post

Iron-work and Minor Settlement

An important settlement during the late Iron-Age, which probably came into being in the first instance as a trading post, situated at the navigable extremity of the Rib, a northern tributary of the Lea. In the 1st century AD, the river was much larger, and could have been negotiated by water transport the whole distance from Lea to Braughing.

Part of Catuvellaunian tribal territory at the time of Claudius, but formerly part of the Trinovantian kingdom of Addedomaros in circa 20 BC, as coin hoards from the area attest. Indications from the distribution of silver and bronze coinage of Tasciovanus suggest that the Tasciovanian capital lay in the Braughing area. The wealth of the Verulamium – Braughing area fell into decline when Cunobelin, the son and heir of Tasciovanus, decided to move the royal seat to Camulodunum when the old king died. The location of the settlement, with its ready access to the Icknield Way and onwards to the upper reaches of the Thames, together with its availability to the rich grain producing areas of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, made it both a valuable commercial and strategic centre. In recognition of this, five roads radiate out from Braughing, including Ermine Street on its journey to the north and, importantly, Stane Street connecting with Colchester: some of these routes, particularly Stane Street, are thought to have been constructed on aleady existing native trackways. Another road led south-east via potteries at Bromley Hall (TL4121) to a rural temple at Harlow (TL4612), which perhaps continued via potteries at Epping to Chigwell.

The Roman settlement covered an area of at least thirty-six hectares, the nucleus of which lies on a low chalk ridge between the River Rib and Ermine Street. Air photographs show that buildings were arranged alongside all five roads and extended to roughly to the same boundaries as the preceeding iron-age settlement, which was of similar or greater extent.

A Roman bath-house constructed of flint and mortar with tile bonding-courses, was built in the late first century but abandoned before the middle of the second century.

Excavations undertaken along the line of Ermine Street, which skirted the settlements western extremity, revealed that both sides were lined with timber buildings, represented by gravel floors and post-holes, of which the earliest were Claudian. In the third century they comprised long rectangular workshops where bronze,iron and bone objects were manufactured. With open porticoes fronting Ermine Street they had tiled roofs and wattle and daub walls rendered with white wash.

Excavations at Skelton Green revealed buildings of Claudian date which were abandoned around 50AD and the site turned over for use as a cemetery. Fifty-four cremations and seven inhumations were recovered from the excavation site, the cremations ranging in date from the late first century to mid-late second century, while the inhumations were of third to fourth centuries in date. Two other cemeteries have been partially excavated, lying 260 metres north and 140 metres south-west of the Skelton Green cemetery, from the former of which five burials of Flavian and Antonine date were recovered, while from the latter site one hundred and four burials were recovered, ranging from early-mid second century to the third or early fourth centuries.

A villa with tessalated pavements and at least one mosaic floor lies at Mentley farm, around 1km west of the settlement.

References for Braughing

Roadside Settlements of Lowland Roman Britain by Roger Finch Smith (B.A.R. British Series #157, 1987) p.171.

Roman Roads near Braughing

NW (11) to Baldock N (9) to Barkway Stane Street: E (6) to Bishops Stortford (Essex) Ermine Street: N (16) to Wimpole Lodge NE (14) to Great Chesterford SW (12) to Welwyn (Hertfordshire) SE (10) to Harlow Ermine Street: S (28) to Londinivm SE (10) to Old Harlow

Sites near Braughing Roman Trading Post