Site of Roman fort, Abergavenny
The car park occupies the site where the Romans built a fort in 55-57AD. It linked with forts at Usk and Brecon to try to control the fierce local tribe of the Silures. It was rebuilt several times over the next 200 years. The image on the right, showing how the fort may have looked, is by Sally Davies and is reproduced with thanks to Abergavenny Museum.
Excavations have found two barrack blocks, window glass and a hoard of clay sling bullets. The metal finds include three lobed hinges from lorica segmentata. This was the classic plate-armour worn by legionaries in the second half of the 1st century AD.
An extremely unusual find from the Orchard Site excavations was a splendid bronze strap-hook with Celtic decoration. This was used to fasten the sword-belt of a wealthy warrior. It may have been made by a local Silurian craftsman in the period 50-70AD. The drawings of it on the left, courtesy of Abergavenny Museum, are by Kevin Blockley.
The site also produced a link of chain mail and a high proportion of mid-first century horse harness. These finds probably represent the equipment of lightly-armed auxiliary cavalry.
Roman pottery and coins, as well as other many other finds, can be seen in the Abergavenny Museum and the National Museum of Wales. The Romans chucked their rubbish over the steep bank down to the Usk river, which flows across the Castle Meadows below. If you look over the wall at the rear of the car park you can see that the fort controlled the crossings of the Usk river and, to the left, the Gavenny river where it joins the Usk. The Roman name for Abergavenny, Gobannia, comes from the same source as Gavenny, as explained here.
Archaeologists had never found remnants of the Romans’ roads in Abergavenny until 2015, when a section was uncovered behind the former Gunter mansion in Cross Street.
This site hosted the sheep market between 1825 and 1863. Previously animals had been sold on the streets, but after receiving complaints about the mess and inconvenience for townsfolk the Town Commissioners created the first enclosed market. In 1863 the sheep market moved to the Cattle Market at the end of Market Street.
With thanks to Gill Wakley, of Abergavenny Local History Society
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