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HER 737

(Information taken from D.L. Brown, "The Romano-British Settlement at Blackwardine", Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, Volume XLVI 1990 Part III, pp. 390-406) 

Blackwardine is located two miles south-east of Leominster at SO 5300 5600. It lies on a plateau slightly raised above the level of the Humber Brook, which forms a boundary to the settlement area on the east. There are several Iron Age camps within the vicinity of the Roman settlement, most notably Risbury Camp and Bach Camp.

The cutting of the land for the Leominster and Bromyard Railway in 1882 was the first large-scale disturbance of the site. Unfortunately, any remains that were found were only seen by the workmen, whose descriptions of the items are not particularly detailed.

Structural remains included "about 30 ovens, full of ashes, built of worked stones", whilst graves were also discovered (T. Davies-Burlton, "Some traces of Roman and Saxon occupation of the district of Risbury", TWNFC XI, 1885, 340-2). Some coins were sent to the British Museum to be identified but many finds were reburied or kept by the workmen.

In 1980 a proposal was made to use the now-disused railway cutting for the disposal of refuse. As a result of the approval of this scheme work was begun in November and was monitored by the County Museum Archaeological Section and others.

The landfill scheme involved removing 3m of the base of the railway cutting to produce a more vertical face. This produced a long section about 4m high, cutting right through the archaeological area along the northern edge of the scheduled area. Excavation work in advance of machining was not possible so it was decided that a watching brief would be undertaken with significant features being drawn, photographed or recorded.

Work began in January 1981, by which time several features at the eastern end of the excavation had already been excavated or obscured by backfill. These included a pit containing Samian ware of the 1st century AD, recovered by Dr. Graham Webster on an early visit to the site, and another pit containing a well which had been excavated by A. Haines. The well contained pottery, Samian ware and a coin of Hadrian.

Forty-one features were identified in the cutting face. However, few were recorded with sufficient precision to add much information about the site. The pit containing the Samian ware (highly-decorative red glazed pottery) is likely to have represented the earliest phase of the site, with the appearance of early Flavian material.

The well was the first feature to be recorded by J. Sawle (Excavations Officer for Hereford and Worcester County Museum). It measured c. 36m in diameter, and was reported to have been over 5m deep.

The majority of the features identified were either pits or substantial post-holes, few of which provided any more information than an idea of profile and size. Only one pit was examined closely. It was a steep-sided, flat-bottomed pit 1m across and 1.2m deep, but its plan was not recoverable. Within the pit were found Severn Valley ware, Black-burnished ware and wheel-made Malvernian ware, suggesting a date in the later 3rd or 4th century AD for the use and backfill of this feature.

Twelve ditches were recorded, the alignments for which could be ascertained in only six cases; only the largest three produced any finds. Of the remaining six, their identification as ditches rested on the shape and the lie of the fill. Of the three ditches producing finds, the smallest was U-shaped, 4m wide and 3m deep. The pottery recovered dated from the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD.

The other two ditches formed the western limit of the area in which features were found, and contained material dating from between the 2nd and 4th century AD. The largest ditch was 30m wide and nearly 5m deep, with gently sloping sides. Four main layers were identified within the ditch, the lowest of which was a silty layer containing finds of mostly later 2nd century date. The layer above this was a fill layer yielding pottery and other finds of 2nd to 4th century date. No finds were made in the third layer, and the top layer was made up of topsoil.

Three further linear features were found to contain quantities of sandstone rubble or layers of mortar and stone. These were interpreted as stone foundations, either of drystone or as more substantial set-stone foundations.


The total number of finds from the railway cutting was quite small, but the pottery is nevertheless important. Two coins were found on the site, in the large ditch in the second from bottom layer. One was a coin of Domitian dated to AD 87, the other was a coin of Constantine I which dated from AD 322-3.

A total of 48 sherds of Samian ware were recovered from the main site, and 13 sherds from one of the pits. These included examples from south, east and central Gaul. A total of 714 sherds of coarse pottery were found on the site. Fragments of mortaria, bowls used for grinding cooking ingredients and similar to a pestle and mortar, were also found in the area. Two types of pottery make up the majority of finds within this site: Severn Valley and Dorset black-burnished ware.

Other objects found in 1980-1 include: an iron wallhook, a handle, a hinge, nails, a fragment of a quern stone, a small fragment of a glass vessel, three pig's teeth and two oyster shells. Other excavations at Blackwardine have also produced a fibula (brooch), an inscribed pewter plate, a shale bowl and a Byzantine coin. Leominster Museum also has glass beads and a horse figurine. Various owners of the site hold painted wall plaster, flue tiles and glass fragments.


Little is known about the exact nature of the site at Blackwardine. It has been suggested that it was the site of a Roman fort, and its siting close to a number of hillforts, near to a Roman road and on a prominence with a water supply goes some way to backing up this theory. It has been suggested that the site at Blackwardine was a Roman base during Ostorius Scapula's advances into the west of Britain (AD 48-9). However, the available dating evidence suggests a later date of the late 60s or early 70s AD. Another possibility is that it was a small village-type settlement.

Due to the limited amount of recorded excavation at this site, very little can be said with any certainty about its purpose, with even the exact limits of the Roman site unknown.