Home >

Wiston Roman Fort Dig Diary July 2014

The project in the possible vicus is being grant-aided by Cadw and the work within the fort area by the David and Christopher Lewis Foundation.


Click here to see the Wiston Roman Fort Projects page

Click here to see the Wiston Dig Diary for 2013

Day 1 - Monday 14th July 2014

An excavation area was stripped of topsoil within the southwestern corner of the fort.  The trench extended from the line of the western ramparts into the fort area, adjacent to an area where postholes from timber buildings were recorded last summer.  Pits and postholes were revealed, but we had no sign of the intervallum road (which runs around the inside of the perimeter of the fort) which had shown up so clearly last year.  We also put in the first of our trenches in the fields to the south where geophysical survey has indicated the presence of an extensive civilian settlement or vicus. 

Geophysical survey results from June 2014


Day 2 - Tuesday 15th July 2014

Our first day with volunteers, who did a great job cleaning up the excavation area within the fort. 

We finished excavating a further three trenches in the field to the south.  Numerous ditches, gullies and postholes have been identified, although we still need to find the dating evidence to confirm the area is a Romano-British vicus .

Cleaning the excavation area within the fort

Opening the trenches in the southern field

Day 4 -Thursday 17th July 2014

A beautiful, warm and sunny day and one where the features have started to make sense within the fort excavation area.  Stone lined postholes and other features are becoming visible indicating the layout of the fort.

In the afternoon we had a group site visit with various members and trustees of the Trust, representatives of PLANED and David and Hazel Lewis of The David and Christopher Lewis Foundation (funders of the fort excavation).  Everyone seemed happy after a long trek around the site of the fort and the possible vicus area.

The trenches in the southern field are very hard and dry and our team is doing a sterling job of making them ready for recording in less than ideal conditions.

The afternoon site tour – watching the volunteers doing the hard work!

Day 5 - Friday 18th July

Most of us continued with yet more cleaning within the trench in the fort – trying to determine where our intervallum road has gone and why the features are all so shallow and indistinct. Those in the southern field were having a better day with weather conditions perfect for seeing the numerous ditches and post holes within our four trenches.

In the morning Ed gave Wiston school a guided tour around the fort site.  They asked lots of interesting questions and had a good look on the spoil heaps for finds. A site tour was undertaken for our volunteers in the afternoon within the possible vicus field to keep everyone informed of progress.

Site tour of the southern field for volunteers and staff

Day 6 - Saturday 19th July

To keep spirits high we had a mass exodus to begin excavation of the various ditches and postholes within the possible vicus field.  So far these seem to be relatively easy to define and excavate despite the very dry nature of the ground.  Highlight of the day was the discovery of sherds of black burnished ware within one of the ditches, though we certainly need more Roman pottery and more features to confirm it is a Romano-British settlement.  Jim stayed behind with Deione in the fort field in a desperate attempt to try and make sense of what our trench has uncovered and determine how to proceed next week.  The present theory at the end of the first week is that we have the southern end of a north to south aligned building in the middle of the trench.  The building is defined by right angled beam slots to the east and west with a pair of stone lined postholes internally forming the central aisle of the building.  A possible cobbled entranceway may also survive into the building.  It could all change on Monday!

At last we have clear features to excavate in the southern field (fort excavation area in the distance)

Day 7 - Monday 21st July

We have continued work in the southern field and more of the features have been excavated in the central trench (Trench 6).  Ditches, gullies and a number of postholes are all present. We have increased our find count, with more black burnished ware and Samian pottery, looking to date from the mid-1st century AD.  Although early days, it would suggest that the area was in use after the Roman fort had been vacated.  To have a Roman settlement of the size indicated on the geophysical survey in Pembrokeshire would be another first for Wiston!  After a bit more recording we have vacated the fort field for a few days whilst we deal with the trenches in the southern field.

Day 8 - Tuesday 22nd July

Excavation of the features in Trench 6 is coming to an end with the recording phase well in progress.  Hubert, Robert, Martin and Rhod moved on to Trench 8 - our most southerly trench located across a very busy area as suggested by the geophysical survey.  The features are not as clear as those in Trench 6 and may have been severely truncated by ploughing, but plenty more to look at yet. 

Pete, Tom, Joan and Roger have been working in Trench 7 the most northerly trench.  This has a number of features many of which have indications of burning.  Perhaps a light industrial area just outside of the fort?  A fragment of box flue tile was also recovered from the trench.  We would of course need a vast amount more tile to suggest a bath house, but it is the first definitively Roman tile we have found!

A well deserved break at our new camp in the southern field

Days 8 and 9 - Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th July

We continue working in the southern field.  It is dry, very dry and it has been hot, very hot!

We are thankfully still making good progress and finishing up in Trench 6, with volunteers Hazel, Ian, Jim, Jude and Rob preparing numerous section drawings and filling in endless context sheets.  Roger has continued to excavate a lovely ditch in Trench 6 which has produced some very nice pieces of Romano-British pottery.

Trench 7 has produced two nice features both of which have been crammed with large stones, although their function is uncertain.

Trench 8 is still proving difficult in the dry conditions, but Rhod was rewarded at the end of Wednesday with a nice sherd of grey ware, with decoration.

During Thursday, further work in Trench 5, located directly southeast of the fort, has produced a good amount of pottery, just from initial trowelling of the surface.  Large stones, a possible stone surface and areas of burnt material in its northern end all suggest that it could be really quite exciting!  We shall start excavation in the next few days.

Roger with a piece of the rim of a black burnished ware vessel freshly picked from his ditch

Alice and Geraint in the southern end of Trench 5, where expectations are high!

Day 10 - Friday 25th July

Recording continues apace despite the very dry ground conditions making everything in our trenches look the same colour!  The team is good at improvising to make some shade to improve our site photographs.  Better these conditions than the cold and rain any day though!

Hazel and Robert work together to create shade for a photograph

Day 11 - Saturday 26th July

All excavation in Trenches 6, 7 and 8 is completed by the end of the day, with a start being made on the final plans.  The team moves on to Trench 5, to investigate the dark (and damp!) features at the northern of the trench.  Two areas of the trench are producing more finds than anywhere else and whilst my back is turned there is a scramble by Alice, Joan and Rob to work in the same spot!  Violence is averted, but I am not looking forward to Monday when I shall have to take some people away to work back on the fort (mutiny may ensue).  It seems that Trench 5 contains numerous layers of waste material, including building rubble and lots of pottery.  The edges of a large rubbish pit may also have been identified by Geraint and Jude.  The building rubble suggests a building, at least  partially built of stone, lay nearby and as we are close to a water course, perhaps we are near to the site of the fort bath house?  Wishful thinking maybe, but….

Possible rubbish pit at northern end of Trench 5 with building rubble 

Day 12 - Sunday 27th July

Sunday is our day of rest, but this does not prevent Hubert from coming in to finish off a plan.

Hubert planning Trench 8 on his day off

Day 13 - Monday 28th July

Following some negotiation amongst the team our forces were split up, with Alice, Geraint, Joan and Jude remaining in the area with most finds within Trench 5.  Roger also stayed to work on a difficult area at the south end of the trench.  Tom continued finding yet more features in Trench 7, with Hubert and Jon having a day of surveying.  Deione also remained in the south field to wash and bag the finds.

For the rest of us it was back to the fort for some hard labour!  Hazel, Ian, John, Rob, Robert and Tony spent the day reducing the ground level over the area of the possible building to try and expose the top of the archaeological deposits.  Pete, Rhod and Sarah dug sections through the rampart material to expose the original ground surface.

Pax Romana, the lucky four remain in Trench 5 with no blood spilt (the less lucky Roger in the background)

Rhod and Sarah tackle the ramparts

Day 14 - Tuesday 29th July

The fort team spend the morning trowelling and we expose numerous features including  pits, postholes and gullies.  Following preliminary recording we start to excavate some of the features.  Only one or two small sherds of pottery so far, but there is still time.  Rhod and Ian continue on the ramparts.

In the south field Roger finds the enclosure ditch at the south end of Trench 5 which had been eluding us for a few days.  The northern part of the trench still appears to contain layers of rubbish deposits, possibly covering an earlier ditch.  The possibility of a corn drier has also been found by Tom in Trench 7. 

Watering the fort trench ready for the morning

Day 15 - Wednesday 30th July

The team continues to try and excavate the various features identified within the fort trench.  This does not prove easy in many cases as the edges of features are elusive and the ground surface all seems to turn the same colour light brown after a few hours.  Small sherds of pottery are recovered from the large pit discovered in the trench.

Excavation in Trench 5 is completed revealing the northern end is covered in a series of Roman tip layers, including building stone, burnt material and lots of pottery, filling a natural low point in the southern field.   Within Trench 7, Tom starts to realise that what we thought was the undisturbed ground surface is actually material that may have been laid for some form of flooring. 

We are joined during the day by some of the Pembrokeshire Prospectors who scan our spoil heaps and trenches for metal finds, although very little is found.  I apologise to them again for burying a broken hand shovel in a spoil heap.

The end of excavation in Trench 5, Geraint, Joan, Jude and Rodger take a breather

Day 16 - Thursday 31st July

Panic begins to set in as I realise the enormous amount of recording and excavation we still have to do to finish the site.  To make it easier Rhod and I end the day cleaning up the area beneath the ramparts and find a road!  Further postholes are also discovered within the trench.

Within the southern field, Jude and Geraint tackle the long section drawing through the tip layers at the northern end of the trench, whilst Martin decides to do further excavation and finds what looks like a road surface at the side of the tip layers.  Rodger, Roger and Tom continue to find more in Trench 7.  Tomorrow is the last day, but still we can't stop ourselves finding more!

Tom in Trench 7

Day 17 - Friday 1st August

Our last day on-site with volunteers, only held up for 15 minutes by an early morning torrential downpour (the only time we have been stopped by bad weather for three weeks!)  It is a day of hectic recording, writing context sheets, drawing and surveying.  Although we shouldn't, we also continue with a bit of excavation in the fort field.  Ian resolves that the small feature he had been digging is actually a large pit.  Rob and Hazel confirm a couple more postholes.  It is a long day and a huge amount is completed, leaving only some plan drawing to do on Sunday. 

Last bit of cleaning and recording in Trench 4 (please note that John is kneeling down in a pit …)

A huge thank you to everyone who has worked on the team, Alice, Ami, Babs, Deione, Gaynor, Geraint, Hazel, Ian, Jim, Joan, John,  Jon, Jude, Martin, Pete, Rhod, Rob, Robert, Rodger, Roger, Sarah and Tony (and of course Ed, Hubert, Pete, Tom and Sarah),  it has been a most enjoyable and very worthwhile exercise. 

I shall add a round up of my thoughts on our findings in the next few days which I hope will demonstrate how successful the project has been and how our work has substantially increased our understanding of the Romans in Pembrokeshire.  Thanks of course are also due to Cadw and The David and Christopher Lewis Foundation for funding the work.  Last but not least, massive thanks to Mr Ieuan Morris and family for allowing us to come back and dig more holes across his land, and for his interest, support and assistance throughout the project.





[click for navigation menu if not present]

[cliciwch am rhestr y pynciau os nad yw'n bresennol]