Developer-Funded Roman Archaeology in Britain

The Project

Over the last five years Cotswold Archaeology has been collaborating with the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading on a major project examining regional and chronological variation in Roman rural settlement through analysis of farm layouts, domestic architecture, agricultural practice and burial traditions. This will allow us to assess the integration of settlements in different parts of Britain with the Roman provincial economy and provide a new characterisation of the Romano-British countryside.The project places special emphasis on the ways in which commercial archaeological work in advance of development and in particular that only reported in grey literature, changes our picture of the countryside of Roman Britain. Grey literature is reports on developer-funded archaeological investigations which do not get published in conventional journals or books.

A separate strand to the project has looked at the contribution of commercial archaeology to our understanding of major Romano-British towns. We jointly organised a one-day conference at the University of Reading on 30 November 2013 English Heritage and the Roman Society. The papers were published in a Britannia Monograph in April 2015.

The Partners

The project team comprises experts from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading, the Archaeology Data Service at the University of York and Cotswold Archaeology, complemented by a number of external specialists. The principal project leads are Professor Michael Fulford, University of Reading and Neil Holbrook Chief Executive at Cotswold Archaeology.

The initial project was restricted solely to England and was generously supported by Historic England and the Leverhulme Trust. Thanks to a second grant from the Leverhulme Trust we have now been able to extend the project to cover Wales, and a generous donation from Mr Paul Chadwick has also allowed us include evidence from the walled “small towns” of Roman Britain. We have benefited greatly throughout from the support of the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers.

The Outputs

  • An interactive on-line database entitled The Rural Settlement of Roman Britain by the Archaeology Data Service. This is now live and contains data on settlement / site morphology, artefacts and environmental evidence. We encourage feedback on database – please send any comments to Nathan Blick
  • Three volumes will be published by the Roman Society in the Britannia Monograph series between 2016 and 2018 under the series title New Visions of the Romano-British Countryside edited by Michael Fulford and Neil Holbrook. Volume 1 entitled The Rural Settlement in Roman Britain by A. Smith, M. Allen, T. Brindle and M. Fulford has now been published and is available from Oxbow Books.
  • A journal article examining previous approaches to the investigation of Romano-British rural settlement, and suggesting future best practice (2017)
  • A journal article examining the principal advances in knowledge of Romano-British small towns over the last 25 years (2018)

Methodology Study

One strand of the project is looking at the ways in which commercial archaeologists investigate, analyse and report on work on Romano-British rural settlements. Check out our Methodology page to  find out more about this aspect of the project and read a series of short discussion papers examining various aspects of contemporary professional practice.

Further Information

Download: A summary of the Project Design
Download: Project Newsletter 1 (Autumn 2012)
Download: Project Newsletter 2 (Summer 2013)
Download: Article summarising the results of the pilot project
Download: Presentations from the East of England Regional Meeting
Download: Presentations from the East Midlands Regional Meeting
Download: Presentations from the London and South East Regional Meeting
Download: Project Newsletter 3 (Spring 2014)
Download: Presentations from the West Midlands Research Seminar (Spring 2014)
Download: Presentations from the Research Seminar South West England (June 2014)
Download: Project Newsletter 4 (Summer 2014)
Download: Presentations from the Yorkshire and Humber Research Seminar (October 2014)
Download: Presentations from the North East and North West Regional Seminar (December 2014)
Download: The Towns of Roman Britain – monograph details
Download: Presentations from the National Conference (April 2015)
Download: Presentations from the Welsh Regional Meeting (November 2015)
Further reading: A summary of progress on the project at November 2015