Antonine Posting Station and Minor Settlement
The Neatham Roman Settlement
Roadworks for the Alton by-pass [in 1970] revealed a settlement on the Chichester-Silchester Roman road. Excavation identified (a) a small cemetery of five cremation-burials in pits of c. 0.9 m. [3 feet] radius, and a double inhumation (first century A.D.); (b) five buildings built of crude chalk blocks, one used for bronze-smelting (late third and fourrth centuries); (c) an area 15 by 21 m. [c.50 x 70 feet] interpreted as a trading-place, because of the large number of coins of small denominations found in occupation-layers between a succession of sand and flint floors.” (Britannia, 1971)
The Roman settlement at Neatham lies about the crossing of the Silchester to Chichester (north-south) road with the main London to Winchester (east-west) road, just north of the fording over the River Wey. Excavations in the 1980’s to the west of the Silchester to Chichester highway revealed a number of rectangular, timber-built dwellings abutting onto the road, one measuring 3.5×20 metres. Behind these buildings, some of which revealed evidence of bronze-working, lay a 40m wide area delineated by a suspected boundary ditch, which was dotted by various (storage?) pits and wells. A previous dig undertaken in the 1970’s had revealed a flint-built bath-house, in use between the late-third to late-fourth centuries, whose back wall was later found to conform to this suspected 40m western boundary. Occupation of this civilian settlement lasted from Flavian times until the late-fourth or early-fifth centuries.
The Vindomis Roman Road Station
Just to the north of the cross-roads settlement was a triple ditched enclosure measuring some 212x178m, astride the Silchester – Chichester road, which lay along its long-axis. The ditches appear to have been first cut in the late-second century and back-filled by the mid-third century. On the western side of the road within the enclosure limited excavations have uncovered a large, aisled, timber building with a packed clay floor measuring at least 9.5 x 18 metres. The main axis of this, the only apparent structure within the enclosure, lay at right-angles to the road, and was probably a Roman posting station or Mansio.
Vindomis – Antonine Posting Station
The evidence for the Roman name of Neatham comes exclusively from the second century document the Antonine Itinerary. At first glance, there are two itinera listed in this work dealing with the routes which pass through this minor Roman town; Iter XII and Iter XV are very similar, although both itinera have different starting points. However, it appears most likely that the entire text of the Fifteenth Itinerary was erroneously transposed onto the beginning of the Twelfth, which we must therefore discard.
Itinerary 15 The route from Calleva¹ to Isca Dumnoniorum² – one-hundred and thirty-six (Roman) miles. Vindomi xv Venta Belgarum³ xxi …
- Calleva Atrebatvm, Silchester, Hampshire.
- Isca Dvmnoniorvm, Exeter, Devon.
- Venta Belgarvm, Winchester, Hampshire.
From the above extract from the A.I. we see that the town Vindomis lies 15 miles from Silchester and 21 miles distant from Winchester, but the directly measured distance between these two towns is only 23 miles. This can lead us to only two conclusions; either the distances quoted in Iter XV are in error (not unknown in this much-copied work), or the itinerary took a long (and quite unnecessary) diversion.
If we assume that the Itinerary is in error, then the most suspicion must be directed at the second quoted distance of 21 miles berween Vindomis and Winchester. It is possible that a second X has been introduced by an unknown scribe in the past, thus converting XI into XXI, but overall this still leaves 3 extra miles to dispose of. This could also be explained by an error in the Vindomis – Silchester distance, whereby the number II looked to an ancient copyist to be joined at the bottom and was thus copied as a V, which increased the original distance from 12 miles to 15. This double-error in consecutive recorded distances, although possible, would not be very likely, and would also have to occur before Iter XV was transposed onto Iter XII as the recorded distances are the same in both cases.
If we take the second option, that Iter XV for some reason took a ‘dog-leg’, then a quick investigation with the OS Map of Roman Britain and a pair of compasses locates the Vindomis Roman station in one of two places; either somewhere along the Silchester to Leucomagus (East Anton) road, nearby the substantial Roman building at Hurstbourne Priors, or else very close to Neatham, a known Roman settlement north-east of Alton in Hampshire which lies almost exactly 15 (Roman) miles along the road between Silchester and Noviomagus (Chichester). It should be noted that Margary tentatively places the Vindomis station at St Mary Bourne near East Anton (see Roman Roads in Britain Vol II Appendix, p.249).
Given the fact that the town of East Anton lies only a few miles further along the road from the first above-mentioned site, the lack of physical evidence at that location, and that this route would entail an entirely unnecessary and very acute ‘dog-leg’ via Winchester, drives me to dispute this option. The second route via the settlement at Neatham still contains a diversion but an oblique one, and also fits the Iter XV distances much better, as the direct distance between Neatham and Winchester measured on the map ‘as the crow flies’ is 19 miles. The main problem with this argument is that no Roman roads are known to exist between these two towns.
Other Roman Sites in the Area
There are substantial Roman buildings nearby at Wyck (SU7539) and Coldrey (SU7743), and potteries at Alice Holt (SU8040).
References for Vindomis?
- Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
- Roadside Settlements in Lowland Roman Britain by Roger Finch Smith (B.A.R. British Series #157, 1987) p.280;
- Britannia ii (1971) p.283.