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HER 842

About ½ a mile from the village of Weston under Penyard is the site of the Roman station of Ariconium. The site is mentioned in the 13th Iter of the Antonine Itinerary, where it is said to be 15 miles from Glevum (Gloucester) and 11 from Blestium (Monmouth).

Until the beginning of the 18th century the actual size of Ariconium was unknown, and some antiquaries placed it on the site at Kenchester, which has now been correctly identified as the Roman town of Magnis. The accepted site for Ariconium now lies on Bury Hill near Bollitree, about three miles east of Ross and one mile north of the road that leads to Gloucester.

The site is 350-400ft above sea level and has good views over the hills of Penyard, the Forest of Dean and the plains of Gloucestershire. The slope towards Weston under Penyard on the west is called Cinder Hill, and the ground here has turned up numerous scoriae (lumps of metal slag). Ariconium appears to have been an area of intensive iron working and possesses smelting furnaces and forges.

Apart from the frequent discoveries of scoriae, hand-bloomeries and floors, the extent of the site is marked by a blackened appearance of the soil which contrasts to the red soil of the rest of the county. The blackened soil is suggestive of the town having been destroyed by fire, like Kenchester and Leintwardine.

In the late 1700s Mr. Merrick, the estate owner, cleared the ground of undergrowth, and in 1785 a deep cavity was discovered during ploughing. Portions of walls still standing were discovered, and after excavation to a depth of 4-5ft a floor was uncovered, on which was laid a quantity of blackened wheat.

Among the antiquities found were fibulae (brooches/buckles), figures of lares (household gods), lachrymatories (tear-shaped bottles), lamps, rings and fragments of tessellated pavements. There were also many pieces of red and grey pottery, some with decoration.

In 1804, several skeletons were discovered and also the remains of a stone wall - apparently the facade of a building. The coins found at this site were chiefly of the Lower Empire, but they dated from Claudius (AD 41) to Constantinus (AD 340).

A bronze statue of the goddess Diana was exhibited to the Society of Antiquaries in 1788, but it has since been lost. No mosaic pavements had been discovered in this area by 1908, although it has been noted by a Mr. Southall that in the mid 1800s a farmer found a tessellated pavement but destroyed it "lest he should be bothered by antiquarian visitors". The possible site of this pavement is unknown.

In 1870 a Mr. C. Palmer exhibited coins and other objects to the British Archaeological Association. The coins included nine British ones, two being copper coins of Cunobelin. There were also 118 silver, billon (an alloy of silver) and copper Roman coins, dating from Claudius (AD 41) to Magnentius (AD 353), and also a consular coin of the Cordia family. He also exhibited four intagli (carved gem stones, two of which were of cornelian), glass beads, a silver ring, 20 bronze fibulae (brooches), rings, buckles and other bronze items.

By the beginning of the 21st century the sole trace of the town which can now be seen is a fairly steep bank under which the wall is said to be. There is also a stretch of Roman road which runs past this site.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2004]