You are on page 1of 16

Doc No.

395 July 2018

A.P.A.C. Ltd.
Archaeological Perspectives Analysis Consultancy

ARCHAEOLOGICAL
WATCHING BRIEF REPORT

36 Highfields, Caerwent, Monmouthshire

Monmouthshire County Council


Planning Application 2015/00209

By: C E Smith MCIfA


QA: Dr. Neil Phillips MCIfA
A.P.A.C. Ltd 36 Highfields, Caerwent WB/HC/18

Summary

This report forms the results of a watching brief undertaken by APAC Ltd on land at Highfields,
Caerwent, Monmouthshire. The archaeological work was undertaken during the excavation of
foundation trenches for an extension to the rear and side of the property at 36 Highfields.

Information retained within the regional Historic Environment Record (PRN04362g) shows that the
assessment area is located immediately adjacent to the location of three Roman stone coffins and
inhumations excavated c1975.

The watching brief was maintained on overburden removal and excavation of the foundation
trenches through subsoil in natural deposits. No finds or features of archaeological significance
were located during the course of the works.

Copyright Notice:
A.P.A.C. Ltd. retains copyright of this report under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

The Ordnance Survey has granted A.P.A.C. Ltd a Copyright Licence (No. 100046577) to reproduce map information; Copyright remains otherwise
with the Ordnance Survey.

2
A.P.A.C. Ltd 36 Highfields, Caerwent WB/HC/18

Contents
Contents ................................................................................................................................................... 3
Figures...................................................................................................................................................... 4
1 Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 5
2 Site Location ................................................................................................................................. 5
3 Geology ......................................................................................................................................... 5
4 Brief archaeological and historical background ............................................................................ 5
5 Aims and Objectives ..................................................................................................................... 6
6 Scope of the Work......................................................................................................................... 6
7 Methodology ................................................................................................................................. 6
8 Watching Brief Results ................................................................................................................. 7
9 Discussion and Interpretation ........................................................................................................ 7
10 Archive .......................................................................................................................................... 7
11 Staff ............................................................................................................................................... 7
12 Acknowledgements ....................................................................................................................... 8

3
A.P.A.C. Ltd 36 Highfields, Caerwent WB/HC/18

Figures
Fig 1 General site location map
Fig 2 Detailed OS Mastermap showing site location
Fig 3 Plan showing location of groundworks

Plates
PL01 View of service cut [002]
PL02 Post-excavation plan view of trench
PL03 Post-excavation plan view of trench
PL04 Post-excavation view of east facing trench section
PL05 Post-excavation view (oblique) of south facing trench section

Appendices

Appendix I Digital photograph list & contact sheet

4
A.P.A.C. Ltd 36 Highfields, Caerwent WB/HC/18

1 Introduction

This report by C E Smith of APAC Ltd details the results of results of an archaeological watching brief
undertaken in response to intrusive groundworks associated with a planning application (2015/00209) for: side
two storey extension to the property at 36 Highfields, Caerwent (hereafter referred to as the site – Figs 1&2).

A findspot recorded in the regional historic environment record immediately adjacent to the site details three
Roman stone coffins and inhumations excavated c.1975, likely when the houses of Highfields themselves were
under construction. A Written Scheme of Investigation was submitted to GGAT by APAC Ltd (Phillips, 2018) on
behalf of the applicant.

The assessment area consists of the footprint of the proposed extension. This was formed by a single foundation
trench, ‘L’ shape in plan, 9m in total length, 0.75m wide and with an average depth of 1m. The trench was located
at NGR 347394 190259, (Figs 2&3).

The watching brief was undertaken in a single day (16th July 2018) by Chris E Smith MA MCIfA.

2 Site Location

The detailed location of the site is shown on figure 2. It is located within a 20th century extension to the village of
Caerwent to the south of the A48 with similarly modern developments to the north, east and south. An open area of
playing fields is located to the immediate west. It is located outside, to the east, of the historic core of Caerwent
Roman town. The site is located at 11.9m above Ordnance Datum.

3 Geology

The underlying solid geology of the assessment area is Mercia mudstone, a sedimentary bedrock (British
Geological Survey, 2018). This is overlain by freely draining, slightly acidic, loamy soils (Soilscapes, 2018).

4 Brief archaeological and historical background


The site is located 290m to the east of the scheduled area (MM001) of the Roman town of Caerwent. The town
was founded in c.75AD as the defended Civitas capital of the Silures (Wacher, 1974). Excavations in and around
the town have located various, typically Roman, features such as a forum and basilica (PRN 03096g), bathhouse
(PRN 03170g), temple (PRN 03071g) as well as several houses laid out in insulae and defensible walls with
towers (PRN 09437g).

The town was occupied throughout the Roman period. The addition of extramural towers to the walls in the very
late Roman period, as well as finds of fifth and sixth century metalwork within the town and two cemeteries of
similar date (outside the town gate and at St. Tathan’s church) suggest a continuation of occupation well beyond
the end of the Roman period (Dark, 1994 & Dark, 2000).

A small medieval motte earthwork (PRN 01071g) occupies the south east corner of the town. Although no precise
date for the construction of the motte is known, it is regarded as likely to have been soon after the Norman
invasion of Gwent by Phillips (2004). The presence of the motte, along with the church (although seemingly
rebuilt in the 15th/16th centuries) shows further continuation of occupation in the area.

A large number of archaeological sites and events (interventions such as watching briefs, excavations etc) are
recorded in the immediate area within the regional Historic Environment Record. The vast majority of these relate
to work carried out within the footprint of the scheduled area itself and record large amounts of Roman and
Medieval archaeological features and finds.

The archaeological interventions recorded as closest to the site however, show comparatively little in terms of
significant archaeology. Their findings are outlines below:

PRN E005312 & PRN E004841 relate to two watching briefs carried out by GGAT at 27 Highfields which both
yielded largely negative results. PRN E004814 is a watching brief carried out by Monmouth Archaeology at

5
A.P.A.C. Ltd 36 Highfields, Caerwent WB/HC/18
Highfield House which showed an intact medieval soil horizon. PRN E002519 is a watching brief carried out by
Monmouth Archaeology at Highfield which again showed nothing of archaeological significance. PRN E002481
relates to a watching brief carried out at Cherry Trees, Caerwent, and again shows no significant archaeology.
Lastly, a watching brief carried out at Eastgate crescent by Monmouth archaeology similarly showed no
significant archaeological remains.

Although the area of Caerwent and its immediate surroundings are replete with archaeological finds and features it
would appear that land to the east of Caerwent, most notably within the areas of 20 th century housing, show very
little remaining. A findspot located immediately to the east of the site (PRN 04362g) relates to three Roman stone
coffins and inhumations found in 1975, most likely whilst the houses and infrastructure in the area were being
built.

5 Aims and Objectives


The aims of an archaeological watching brief, as defined by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA,
2014) are:

 To ensure that any buried remains located within the development area are fully investigated and recorded if
revealed as a consequence of the site works;
 To provide an opportunity for the archaeologists present to signal to all interested parties, before the
destruction of the material in question, that an archaeological find has been made for which the resources of
the watching brief itself are not sufficient to support treatment to a satisfactory and proper standard;
 If such a find is made, representatives of both the client and the regional Development Control
Officer/County Archaeologist will be informed and a site meeting organised, as appropriate.

In accordance with the agreed Written scheme of Investigation the general aims of the watching brief were to:

 Establish the presence/absence of archaeological deposits within the assessment area.


 Elucidate the character, distribution, extent and importance of any identified archaeological deposits.
 Produce a detailed record of the work undertaken so as any archaeological deposits are preserved by record

6 Scope of the Work

The watching brief was undertaken on removal/reduction of overburden, topsoil and subsoil horizons by
mechanical excavator.

All remains of potential archaeological or historical interest were considered, whatever their date. Figure 3 shows
a detailed location plan of the extent of the site.

7 Methodology
Watching Brief

Groundworks were undertaken by a 3 ton 360 mechanical excavator under close archaeological supervision at all
times. Groundworks consisted of a single ‘L’ shape foundation trench totalling 9m in length, 0.75m wide and 1m
deep.

All areas were photographed using digital photography (16mp+) with images taken in *RAW or TIFF format for
long term archive storage.

All features were located using a survey grade Geomax GPS system.

All on site illustrations were undertaken on drafting film using recognised conventions and scales (1:10, 1:20,
1:50 as appropriate).

All encountered contexts were recorded on APAC Ltd pro-forma context sheets.

All finds were bagged by context with the finds retained for subsequent processing.

All works were undertaken in accordance with the agreed Written Scheme of Investigation (Phillips, 2018),
6
A.P.A.C. Ltd 36 Highfields, Caerwent WB/HC/18
CIfA’s (2014) Standards and Guidance: for an archaeological watching brief as well as current Health and Safety
legislation.

8 Watching Brief Results

Overburden Removal/Topsoil Stripping

The overburden within the assessment area was formed by concrete paving slabs overlaying bedding
material/hardcore (001). Removal was undertaken by mechanical excavator under close archaeological
supervision. Located immediately beneath the paving slabs, and crossing the footprint of the proposed extension
in a north-east to south-westerly direction, was the line of a drain. The cut for the drain [002] measured
approximately 4.5m in length and was up to 0.55m wide. The cut was made into the subsoil deposit (003) and was
backfilled with loose stone chippings as well as breeze block fragments (004). Topsoil (005) consisted of a small
area of laid turf where the trenches north-south axis joined the east-west axis. This was a dark brown loamy silt
approximately 0.2m deep and overlaying subsoil deposit (003).

Subsoil Stripping

Subsoil (003) consisted of a plasticised, mid brown, loamy silt with occasional small, subrounded, gravel
inclusions. No evidence of charcoal was noted. The subsoil deposit was approximately 0.3 to 0.4m deep and was
cut by the aforementioned drain [002] as well as by the foundation cuts for the house at the southern and eastern
ends of the foundation trench.

The subsoil (003) was found to overlie a superficial natural deposit (006) composed of subrounded gravel within a
red/orange sand and clay matrix. The surface of this deposit was encountered at approximately 0.7 – 0.8m below
the current ground surface and formed the basal deposit within the excavated area.

Watching Brief Summary

The watching brief undertaken at 36 Highfields, Caerwent, revealed no finds, features or deposits of
archaeological significance.

9 Discussion and Interpretation


The watching brief undertaken across the site revealed no features of archaeological or historic significance. The
comparatively shallow depth at which the superficial natural deposits were encountered is likely explained
through previous landscaping/removal of deposits from the area, possibly during construction of the houses and
infrastructure in the Highfields area c.1975.

The Roman coffins and inhumations (PRN04362g) located in the area were most likely discovered during this
house building phase, at which time the majority of in situ deposits would have been removed.

The results of this watching brief thus mirror those reported by GGAT in their watching briefs carried out at 27
Highfields (Tuck, 2003 & Tuck, 2004) in that nothing of archaeological importance was located.

10 Archive

The original archive for the watching brief will be retained by APAC Ltd.

Secondary digital archives will be deposited with the RCAHMW in Aberystwyth.

A copy of the final report & WSI will be deposited with the regional HER for the Vale of Glamorgan held by the
Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust in Swansea.

11 Staff

The watching brief was undertaken by Chris E Smith MA MCIfA. Overall project management was undertaken
by Dr. Neil Phillips MCIfA.

7
A.P.A.C. Ltd 36 Highfields, Caerwent WB/HC/18

12 Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to the landowner for access to the property and for carrying out the mechanical excavation.

13 Bibliography and References


British Geological Survey - www.bgs.ac.uk – Accessed 18th July 2018

Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. 2014. Standards and Guidance: for an archaeological watching brief

Dark, K. 1994. Civitas to Kingdom. British Political Continuity 300-800. Leicester University Press, London

Dark, K. 2000. Britain and the End of the Roman Empire. Tempus Publishing, Stroud

National Soil Resources Institute - http://www.landis.org.uk/soilscapes/ - Accessed 18th July 2018

Phillips, A, O. 2018. Written Scheme of Investigation for an Archaeological Watching Brief: 36 Highfields,
Caerwent. Pl App: 2015/00209

Phillips, N. 2004. Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD1050-1250.

Tuck, M. 2003 , 27 Highfield, Caerwent, Monmouthshire: Archaeological Watching Brief Report: GGAT

Tuck, M , 2004 , 27 Highfield, Caerwent, Monmouthshire; Archaeological Watching Brief Report: GGAT

Wacher, J. 1974. The Towns of Roman Britain. Book Clun Associates, London

The copyright for this report shall remain with A.P.A.C. Ltd

A.P.A.C. Registered Address: Wyastone Business Park, Monmouth, NP25 3SR


Tel: 01600 891584. Mobile: 07734962919 Email: apac.philips@btinternet.com
Company Registration No 5041541 VAT Reg No 826 3628 19
Director: Dr. N. Phillips D.Phil. M. Phil. BA (Hons).Cert Ed/FE MCIfA

8
36 Highfield, Caerwent.

The Ordnance Survey has granted A.P.A.C. Ltd a Copyright Licence (No. 100046577)
Adapted from Magic maps

Fig 1: General Location Map A.P.A.C. Ltd WB/HC/18


36 Highfield, Caerwent.

The Ordnance Survey has granted A.P.A.C. Ltd a Copyright Licence (No. 100046577)
Assessment Area

0 50m

Fig 2: OS Mastermap showing detailed site location A.P.A.C. Ltd WB/HC/18


36 Highfield, Caerwent.

Property
Boundary

Trench

Road (Highfields)

Fig 3: Site plan showing location of groundworks (red) and line of 0 5m


drain (dashed red) in relation to existing 36 Highfields property (grey)

A.P.A.C. Ltd WB/HC/18


Plate 1: View of drain cut [002] bisecting site. Scales 1x2m. Looking south-west

A.P.A.C. WB/HC/18
Plate 2: Post-excavation plan view of east-west trench axis Plate 3: Post-excavation plan view of north-south trench axis
Scale 1x2m Scake 1x2m

A.P.A.C. WB/HC/18
Plate 4: View of east facing section of foundation trench. Scales 2x1m

Plate 5: Oblique view, looking north-east, of south facing foundation trench section
Scales 2x1m

A.P.A.C. WB/HC/18
APAC Ltd 36 Highfields, Caerwent WB/HC/18

Appendix 1 – Photographic Register

No. Camera Format Dir. Description


080649 Leica SH RAW SW View of exposed service cut [002]
080700 Leica SH RAW SW View of exposed service cut [002]
083716 Leica SH RAW W Mid-excavation view showing cramped conditions
083718 Leica SH RAW NW Mid-excavation view showing cramped conditions
084103 Leica SH RAW W Mid-excavation view showing cramped conditions
095052 Leica SH RAW W Post-excavation view of foundation trench
095059 Leica SH RAW W Post-excavation view of foundation trench
095119 Leica SH RAW - Post-excavation view of foundation trench
095146 Leica SH RAW - Post-excavation view of foundation trench
095306 Leica SH RAW W Post-excavation view of foundation trench
095342 Leica SH RAW N Post-excavation view of foundation trench
095353 Leica SH RAW NE Post-excavation view of foundation trench
100719 Leica SH RAW S Post-excavation view of foundation trench
100725 Leica SH RAW SW Post-excavation view of foundation trench