Roman building remains, Barry

Link to French translationRoman building remains, Cold Knap, Barry

Behind the fence at the top of the grassed bank here, you can see the remains of a Roman building. The surviving masonry – the lower parts of the walls and the foundations – neatly map out the external and internal layout. There were 22 rooms, grouped around a courtyard.

Experts from the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust have dated the building to the late 3rd century AD. By then the Romans had been active in this vicinity for about 200 years.

The natural harbour a little to the east was an ideal place to anchor boats and ships at the time. One theory is that the building was a guesthouse. The trust has suggested that the building might have been an official one, connected with naval activity at the harbour, because there is no evidence that there were any baths, water supply and other mod cons here, as would usually feature in a Roman villa.

The building was lost from sight for centuries until the 1960s, when the courtyard was uncovered during construction works in the area. Pieces of Roman pottery and tiles were discovered. In the early 1980s the trust excavated the site, which has been in the care of the local authority since then.

Some of the stone the Romans used here is of a type found at the nearby Bull Cliff and other places in Glamorgan, featuring fossils of small oysters and other bivalves.

About the place-name:

Cold Knapp appears as Colde Knapp and The Coale in 1622 records, Coal Knap in 1762 and 1833, and Cold Knap in 1811. One possible source is the English word cold (Old English: cald, ceald). Another is coal, which in this instance could refer to charcoal. A 1762 map shows charcoal pits at Cold Knap Farm.

Knap is from the Old English cnæpp (“hill-top”), which also gives us the Welsh word cnap (a lump or knob in the landscape). Today the area is commonly known as The Knap.

With thanks to Prof Gwynedd Pierce and Richard Morgan, of the Welsh Place-Name Society

Postcode: CF62 6FF    View Location Map

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