Minor Settlement and Port

Hamworthy was the site of an Iron Age settlement before it was taken over by the Romans in the 1st century. This settlement probably began life c.44AD as a supply port for Vespasian’s Legio II Augusta, at least the portion of it that was housed a couple of hours march to the north in the vexillation fortress at Lake Farm.

Though the legionaries departed for their new legionary fortress at Isca (Exeter, Devon) c.55AD, the port in Poole Harbour continued in use. Gaulish merchants traded goods from the continent for local wares, particularly salt which was made by evaporating seawater, also Kimmeridge Shale and Purbeck Limestone which was quarried just a few miles to the south-west. The minor Roman settlement nearby at Wareham on the west side of Poole Harbour, provided the manpower to quarry the stone and shale from the Isle of Purbeck.

The Romans made use of the harbour, and built a road from Hamworthy to Badbury Rings.

Excavations in 2000 near the shore in Hamworthy revealed two sets of double ditches at right angles to each other, protecting the port on the landward side and enclosing a building which may have been a barracks. From here the Roman engineers laid out a road up the peninsular to a site at Lake Farm where a camp, later replaced by a fort, was constructed near a crossing of the River Stour. The line of the road was traced in the 1930s by H. P. Smith who also dug a cross section of it on Ham Common. It ran northwest up the peninsular before turning north to Corfe Mullen and Lake Farm, crossing the Stour and then running northwest to Badbury Rings. The flat top of the road was about 10 ft (3m) wide with a ditch on either side and it was constructed of layers of bracken and heather, clayey sand and then shingle topped with fine gravel.

Excavations at Hamworthy

Hamworthy was excavated in the 1920s by headmaster Harry P. Smith and pupils from South Road Boys School. It started when a Roman coin and some pottery was found on land belonging to Carter’s tile works and H. P. Smith got permission to dig some trial holes in an adjoining field.

During his excavations, H.P. Smith found abundant evidence of late Iron Age Hamworthy including the traces of eight circular houses and deep ditches running across the site, probably for drainage. The soil filling the house foundations was full of animal bone, charcoal, pottery, flint scrapers and the remnants of clay heaths. The presence of iron slag, nails and other objects suggested metal working on the site.

References for Hamworthy

  • The Roman Invasion of Britain by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993);
  • Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001).

Roman Roads near Hamworthy

N (6) to Lake Farm

Sites near Hamworthy