Cold Knap Roman Site

Mansio and Supply Depot

The monument at Cold Knap consists of the remains of a Roman rectangular courtyard building dating to the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD or the very beginning of the 4th century. It is located close to the beach at Cold Knap with expansive views over the Bristol Channel.

Stone footings survive on the northern part of the site up to four courses high. From the excavations of the collapsed walls, archaeologists suggest that building work at the site had been abandoned before it was fully completed. Located in the south-east corner is a cellared room. The surviving masonry – the lower parts of the walls and the foundations – neatly map out the external and internal layout. There were 22 rooms, grouped around a courtyard. From the excavations of the collapsed walls, archaeologists suggest that building work at the site had been abandoned before it was fully completed. This was an expensively constructed building with walls of local Lias limestone and a roof of ceramic tiles. It would have stood out in the Vale, where sandstone slates were commonly used. The sides of the main doorway were made with alternating courses of limestone and tile. During the excavation chips of fine white limestone were found, suggesting that the building may have been embellished with carved stone. There were two entrances, one from the terrace through Room Q and the other through Room G opposite. The entrance led into a courtyard surrounded by a verandah or corridor which led onto a series of rooms.

Although the walls did not survive high enough to show where the doorways were, we can still distinguish the room sizes. The fact that the building was not finished makes it more difficult for the archaeologists to understand what it may have been used for. It does not seem to have been a villa as it was not provided with a central heating system, which would have been normal at this date.

There was a basement (O) under the room in the south corner. Once again it is difficult to ascertain what this feature may have been used for. The basement did not survive but historians believe you would have entered it from outside the building. Another room of similar size (V) was discovered when the south-west wing of the nearby modern building was constructed. This may have been part of the same building or it could have been a separate structure. A small tower was one possibility, which would have provided great views out to sea.

What was the building used for?

Supply Base for the Bristol Channel Fleet?

The Romans arrived and built a large building at the Knap possibly a supply depot for their Bristol Channel fleet. The natural harbour a little to the east was an ideal place to anchor boats and ships at the time. One theory is that the building was a guesthouse. The trust has suggested that the building might have been an official one, connected with naval activity at the harbour, because there is no evidence that there were any baths, water supply and other mod cons here, as would usually feature in a Roman villa.

Guest House or Mansio?

Another theory that historians have suggested is that what you are looking at is possibly an official guest house for users of the imperial post system. Roman boats would have needed to make frequent stops to wait for suitable conditions when travelling the Bristol Channel with its very high tidal range.

Sites near Cold Knap Roman Site