Staines (Pontes) Roman Settlement

Minor Settlement

The minor Roman settlement at Staines lay on the main London to Calleva (Silchester) road at the crossing of the River Thames, just south of the confluence of the River Chess. The Roman settlement was probably founded as a military post in the immediate post-conquest period whilst the legions were moving west. The area was affected by flooding in 50AD, but due to the strategic position, re-occupation by a military detachment was necessary, and soon a small civil settlement grew up around the military post and possible depot; in 60-61AD these features were destroyed during the Boudiccan uprising. Almost immediately after the uprising the settlement was rebuilt and developed into a prosperous civilian town, the full expansion of which occurred between 100-130AD. Towards the end of the 2nd century the substantial buildings in the now High Street area were deliberately demolished and a clay (flood?) bank was erected around the outskirts of the town, on its southern side. The systematic destruction of the buildings may have been the result of retribution by Severus, for the town’s support of Clodius Albinus. Flooding re-occurred in 220 AD with large areas of the settlement being affected. Some slight growth appears in 270 AD but the character of settlement had changed by then from a once thriving commercial centre to a small nucleated settlement. Some form of defence system, with entrances guarded by rectangular timber structures, was constructed about the town in the late 4th/early 5th century, utilising a natural east-west ridge, this had also been used as a boundary for the settlement since the 3rd century. Outside this area an Anglo-Saxon settlement dating from the 5th-6th centuries was discovered and included an industrial site, a possible grubenhaus and a series of ditches and gullies.

The Bridges at Staines (Pontes) Roman Settlement

There was of course a bridge over the River Thames which can easily be pinpointed by following the line of the main east-west road, but the settlement’s Latin name Pontes meaning “The Bridges”, implies another bridge or series of causeways, crossing either the River Chess, or perhaps the Thames to the west of its confluence with the Chess.

Pontes Roman Settlement in Literature

In his Arthurian novel Enemy of God Bernard Cornwell sites an 11-arch stone bridge at Pontes/Staines. He attributes it 7 arches over the river with two on land at each end. A the Western end is a tower over the road from Calleva, which bears a plaque commemorating its building by Emperor Hadrian. At the Eastern end an earth-walled settlement.

References for Pontes

Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001).

Roman Roads near Pontes

W (27) to Silchester (Calleva Attrebatum) E (18) to Londinivm

Sites near Staines (Pontes) Roman Settlement