Andover (Leucomagus) Roman Settlement

Minor Settlement

The East Anton Roman settlement is situated on the outskirts of Andover 2 miles (3.2km) north-north-east of the town centre. Half of the site lies to the east of Icknield Way in the fields south of Eastanton Manor Farm, but a considerable part of the settlement now lies beneath the homes and gardens of a housing estate east of the A343 Newbury Road, in the area between Viking Way to the north, Smannel Road to the south, and between Icknield Way and Roman Way to the west.

The Roman settlement grew up at the junction of two major Roman roads, the Portway which runs ENE-WSW and the Icknield Way running NNW-SSE; unlike many other Roman road junctions, which were often guarded by an early-period fort, there is absolutely no indication that the settlement at East Anton had a military precursor.

Aside from the two Roman road there was another ancient communication route a couple of miles to the south of the Roman settlement, this prehistoric trackway, named the ‘Harroway’, ran from east to west through the area to the immediate south of Andover and is now roughly followed by the line of the A303(T). This trackway was crossed by the Icknield Way Roman road at a point just to the west of the ancient earthwork at Old Pound (SU396446) on the southern edge of Andover Downs and once joined the hillforts at Tidbury Ring (SU462428) in the east with Bury Hill (SU345435) in the west. The trackway continues eastwards to eventually join up with the North Downs Way in Kent to its eastern terminus at Folkestone, while to the west it passes through Salisbury Plain and close beside Stonehenge before continuing towards Devon and Cornwall with it’s western terminus at the tin-mining island of Marazion.

Evidence of Pre-Roman Occupation

Excavations in 1970 in advance of construction of the housing estate to the west of Icknield Way upon the site of the Roman Settlement were conducted by the Department of the Environment and the Andover Archaeological Society. These investigations recovered evidence of a Belgic farmstead enclosed by a circular ditch about 230 feet (c.70m) in diameter, within which was an estimated 300 pits ‘of Little Woodbury type cut into chalk’ (SU 368477). Eighty-five of these pits were examined where they were encountered in the development footing trenches; one pit contained a ‘hunting-dog ritual burial’, while others contained large quantities of horse bones, a fibula brooch of La Tene type, also an iron two-link horse bit. All pottery sherds recovered from the pits was of local Belgic ‘Bury Hill’ type, except two sherds of early-Roman.

Two bronze-age Bowl Barrows were excavated in 1933 by the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society south of Smannel Road to the east of the Roman settlement (SU 3776 4733 & SU 3776 4744). Several sherds of Romano-British pottery were recovered during these investigations but were discounted as ‘spurious’ by the excavators, probably being transported to the site by agricultural means.

Evidence of Roman Occupation

In 1847 a team of plough horses fell into a ‘hollow’ up to their shoulders in a field on East Anton Down (SU 371478) belonging to East Anton Farm. Subsequent investigations uncovered a 6′ deep grave cut into the chalk containing the complete skeleton of a yound person of indeterminate sex, 16 to 17 years of age, buried in a wooden coffin evidenced by the remains of several iron nails and plates of ‘metal’ (probably bronze). The burial was accompainied by a Roman vase positioned by the neck of the deceased.

A Roman pottery lamp, a two-handled drinking vessel and a number of animal bones, including those of red deer, were found by workmen digging house foundations in Vigo Road in the 1920’s (SU 3679 4586 to SU 3727 4609).

A Roman bronze figurine of a bird, identified as a pin or brooch head, was found in the area of East Anton (SU3647) and subsequently found its way to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford by 1948.

A Romano-British Cremation Cemetery active during the 3rd to 4th centuries was discovered in 1964 while excavating a trench for a new gas main (SU 3797 4635). A mechanical excavator disturbed a patch of black soil which was laid aside by the machine operator and later examined by Prof. Barry Sutcliffe on behalf of Hampshire County Museum Service. Within the patch of dark soil was an Oxford Ware Decorated Beaker containing a quantity of carbonized remains, some metal sandal studs and sherds of black coarseware, identified as a 3rd-4th century cremation burial.

Excavations conducted by the DOE at the centre of the settlement in 1970 failed to locate the Roman crossroads, which had been built-upon and obscured during the lifetime of the settlement, but succeeded in uncovering and recording the pits, walls, floors, pottery and other debris of Roman occupation from the 1st to the 4th centuries.

Fragments of a Roman fibula brooch, a model axe of lead, an iron socketed axe-head and a Saxon ‘cruciform’ brooch were reported to have been found at Finkley Down (SU 378474) in 1982.

An Archaeological evaluation conducted by Thames Valley Archaeological Services off Viking Way (SU 367477) in 1996 recorded Iron-Age and Roman ditches, pits, and hearths, also an Iron-Age inhumation burial.

Classical References for Leucomagus

The British section of the 7th century The Ravenna Cosmography contains a road-station named Leuco magno (R&C#45), listed between the entries for Noviomagus (Chichester, Sussex) and Cunetio (Mildenhall, Wiltshire); this entry has been equated with the East Anton settlement, the commonly accepted spelling being Leucomagus.

References for Leucomagus

  • Britannia ii (1971) p.282;

Roman Roads near Leucomagus

SW (11) to Boscombe NE (20) to Silchester (Calleva Attrebatum) NW (18) to Cvnetio (Mildenhall, Wiltshire) Pilgrims Way: E (35) to Farnham Trackway: WSW (55) to Ilchester SW (17) to Sorviodvnvm SE (14) to Venta Belgarvm

Sites near Andover (Leucomagus) Roman Settlement