Gatcombe Roman Settlement

Industry and Minor Settlement

A walled Roman settlement existed at Gatcombe in the first and second centuries. Roman remains were first identified at Gatcombe in 1839 when a railway cutting was being constructed. Excavations in the 1960s showed that the site was occupied from the middle of the 1st century until at least the fifth century, demonstrated by the coins of Theodosius, Magnus Maximus and Arcadius which have been found. The full extent of the site is unclear, beyond a specific villa but there is some evidence that the site is much more extensive, possibly forming a village or even a town. It has been speculated that this may be the site of Iscalis as described by Ptolemy, however it has also been suggested this may have been at Charterhouse Roman Town. The site was connected to Abbots Leigh by a Roman road.

Small Roman Farmstead (50-100 AD until 200 AD)

Gatcombe started of as a small native farmstead commencing circa 50-100 AD, with desertion about 200 AD.

Walled Roman Settlement (280-300 AD

It was re-occupation, in the form of a walled settlement, took place in the period 280-300 AD. The Roman site had a 15 feet (4.6 m) wide wall around it, enclosing an area of around 16 acres (6.5 ha), although this is obscured on the southern side near the railway line, A 60 feet (18 m) deep well has also been uncovered.

At least nineteen agricultural buildings have been identified within the enclosure. In addition one building at the southern end of the site included a colonnade and mosaic and other features suggesting it was a sizeable Roman villa. A magnetometry survey conducted during 2009 and 2010 identified several likely buildings outside the enclosed area.

Industrial Gatcombe

It has been suggested that the buildings at Gatcombe were for light industries such as iron smelting, pewter vessel production, large-scale processing of grain.  Over 4000 sherds of pottery were found.  The largest amounts came from Dorset (mostly black burnished ware ), and the Congresbury  kilns but  a minority came from places abroad such as Roman Germany or southern Gaul. Over 500 coins (dropped accidentally, not a hoard) underlines the commercial activity.

The site was abruptly abandoned about 380 AD, but its later use as an ordinary farmstead is indicated by re-occupation circa 400 AD of some of the ruined stone buildings.