Roman Settlement

An early Roman settlement – possibly a 1st century fort – lies beneath modern Cowbridge. The town of Cowbridge lies on the line of the Roman road between Cardiff and Neath. Pottery evidence suggests a date around AD 80, and a bathhouse has been excavated.

The town of Cowbridge stands atop at a 1st century Roman settlement. The origins of the Roman presence here are shrouded in mystery. The settlement may be the site recorded as Bovium (or Bomio), though that site has also been identified with the Roman fort at Cardiff.

The settlement was slowly abandoned after the legions departed. Finds of 1st century funerary monuments also suggest the 1st century military site. Pottery shards show that there was activity here by around AD 80. Whatever the nature of the site, a settlement grew up along a later road, with stone and timber buildings lining the route. Evidence of iron working on a large scale also suggests a military presence.

The Roman site was occupied into the 4th century, but there are almost no remains visible above ground today. There are large ditches behind the Midland Bank and more ditches near the local authority depot.

Later occupation in the area appears to be mainly industrial as extensive evidence of iron smelting and smithing has been recognised.

Military Units in Cowbridge

The Roman settlement was first unearthed in 1977 when excavations on Coopers Lane, opposite Old Hall, found evidence of shops and houses. More excavations behind Bear Lane discovered evidence of a large military presence. Finds of bricks stamped with an imprint of Legio Secundae Augusta – The Second Augustan Legion suggests a sizeable military site. The bricks were found in the remains of a 2nd century bathhouse, or thermae. The bathhouse was abandoned by the early 2nd century. It seems likely that the Second Augustan Legion was based at Cowbridge until it was posted north to defend Hadrian’s Wall.

Roman Milestones in Glamorgan

A number of Roman milestones have been found on the coastal road between Neath and Cardiff. One lies to the immediate south-west of the Nidum fort at Melincryddan (SS7496), and others have been unearthed further along the same stretch of road at Aberafon (SS7588), Port Talbot (SS7887), Margam (SS8184) and Pyle (SS8282). In the texts below, the full names and titles of the emperors have been added in translation, displayed within [square brackets] for clarification.

RIB2251 - Milestone of Victorinus

For the Emperor Caesar Marcus Piavonius Victorinus Augustus.
IMP [...]
In l. 2 mc is a mason's error for C(aesari) M(arco) Henzen.Victorinus, A.D. 268-70.

RIB2253 - Milestone of Licinius

For the Emperor Caesar, our Lord, Valerius Licinius Pius Felix Augustus.
[...] NO V
[...] LIC
[...] P F A
Left face of RIB 2252. For other details see RIB 2252, 2256.Valerius Licinianus Licinius, A.D. 308-24. See also RIB 2231, Tintagel.

RIB2254 - Milestone of Maximinus Daia

For the Emperor Caesar Flavius Valerius Maximinus Invictus Augustus.
IM[   ]
FLA [...]
On the back there is an early Christian epitaph: hic iacit cantvsvspaterpa͡vlinvsMaximinus Daia, A.D. 309-13.

RIB2256 - Milestone of Diocletian and Maximian

For the Emperor-Caesars Diocletian and [Maximian], Invicti Augusti.
Back of RIB 2252. For other details see RIB 2252, 2253.Diocletian and Maximian, A.D. 286-305.

All of these milestones show that there was a considerable amount of road-building or resurfacing work going on in Britain during the latter half of the third century and the early part of the fourth.

References for

  • Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
  • Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);