Cribbs Causeway, Bristol

An excavation near Cribbs Causeway, Bristol, which started back in December 2019, came to an end in February 2021 after a long interruption in 2020. Despite the challenging conditions created by a very wet winter, the excavation revealed some very interesting remains of Late Iron Age to Late Roman occupation. These included a Roman building, which truncated a series of Iron Age ditches and pits and was bounded to the north-east and south-east by a ditched enclosure. To the north-east of the enclosure was a small field system created by several field boundaries and at least one small quadrangular enclosure; to the south-east were the remains of a large curvilinear boundary ditch, which is currently undated.

Overall plan of the excavation areas. Roman building to the south, shown in red, surviving walls and surfaces in blue and yellow respectively
Overall plan of the excavation areas. Roman building to the south, shown in red, surviving walls and surfaces in blue and yellow respectively

The Roman building was substantially truncated by later agricultural activity, but the remaining walls and the robbed-out foundation trenches allowed identification of its footprint. The building was aligned north-east/south-west and it continued beyond the south-western and north-western limits of the excavation. The footprint of the structure showed a composite plan; it included four rectangular rooms and an external cobbled surface in its central area. To the east of this surface were two large post-pads, which may have been bases for the pillars of a small portico-like structure.

Photo showing one of the walls and the remains of the cobbled surface
Photo showing one of the walls and the remains of the cobbled surface

The alignment of the building was reflected by the ditches to the north and east: all were perpendicular or parallel to the projected line of a Roman road thought to be below the current Station Road (to the north-west of the site) that connected the Roman port of Abonae (Sea Mills) to other northbound roads running towards Glevum (Gloucester).

The function of our building has not been determined yet but its proximity to an important trade route should be considered. Surrounded as it was by agricultural fields, our building might have been the core of a farmstead, although it may have been used at some point as a road-side inn. One isolated inhumation burial was identified to the north-east of the main Roman enclosure, but its association with other features at the site remains to be understood.

A selection of copper alloy coins
A selection of copper alloy coins

The site seems to have been occupied between the end of the Iron Age and the 4th century AD, with activity perhaps intensifying towards the end of this period. A collection of coins, three brooches, an iron knife with a copper handle and several fragments of samian ware are among the most remarkable of the finds produced by the excavation.

Paolo Guarino

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