Romano-British Roadside Settlements near Oxford

There are at least three known Romano-British settlements ranged along a 3½ mile (5.7 km) stretch of the main Roman road between Silchester and Towcester, where it passes just to the east of Oxford; from the crossing of the Northfield Brook at Garsington (SP5602) in the south, through Shotover Hill (SP5506) almost due-east of the North Oxford settlement, to Bayswater Hill in Headington (SP5507) in the north, just south of the Bayswater Brook crossing. All these sites are dealt with separately below.

The Settlement at Shotover, Risinghurst

Romano-British occupation on the western end of Shotover Hill, just to the east of the Silchester to Towcester road, was discovered during clay-quarrying in the late-nineteenth century. Finds recorded by Manning in 1898 included building stones, gravel floors, and pottery dated mostly to the 3rd and 4th centuries but including some 2nd-century Samian ware. The surface of a ‘probable road’ was also sectioned, lying parallel to the main road but over 100 yards (90+ metres) to the east; this comprised of a spread of stones about 20 feet (c.6 metres) wide and about a foot (c.30.5 cm) thick in the centre, tapering to ‘almost nothing at the edges’. Coins recovered from the site and recorded by Harding in 1939 ranged from issues of Tiberius (14-ADAD37) to Honorius (395-423AD).

The Settlement at Garsington, Littlemore

Located beside the Roman road from Silchester to Towcester between Northfield Brook and Northfield Farm, a Romano British settlement of unknown extent was discovered during construction work in the 1860’s at Garsington near Littlemore. The foundation trenches of three rectangular buildings were uncovered lying parallel to each other and each measuring about 60 x 16 feet (c.18.3 x 4.9 metres). Roman pottery has been found scattered across the site, also Roman coins dating from Vespasian (69-79AD) to Gratian (367-383AD). A pottery kiln dated to the 4th century was found close by in the 1950’s, lying about 60 feet (18.3 metres) to the east of the road.

The Settlement at Bayswater Hill, Headington

This settlement was discovered during housing development in the 1940’s, and identified as Roman by scattered finds of coarse pottery and Samian, mostly dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries. Sixteen coins were recovered from a 100 yard (90+ metre) stretch to either side of the main road about 300 yards to the south of the Bayswater Brook crossing; these ranged from Constantine II (337-340AD) to Gratian (367-383AD). Several Romano-british burials have been discovered in the area, both inhumations and cremations, two of which, lying about 150 yards to the west of the main road, are a probable indication of the westward extent of the settlement. One cremation burial was placed in an urn, beside which was found lying a small replica of a dolabra or ceremonial hatchet and a whetstone of ‘local sandstone’.

References for Shotover

  • Roadside Settlements in Lowland Roman Britain by Roger Finch Smith (B.A.R. British Series #157, 1987) pp.249-256.

Map References for Shotover

NGRef: SP5506 OSMap: LR164

Roman Roads near Shotover

Possible Road: W (3) to North Oxford (Oxfordshire) Road: N (10) to Alchester (Oxfordshire) Road: S (10) to Dorchester On Thames (Oxfordshire)

Sites near Shotover