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NETTLETON SCRUBB West Kington, Wiltshire, England.

Romano-British settlement in a small valley in the Cotswold hills, on the Fosse Way N of Bath (Aqua Sulis). The small Broadmead brook forms the ancient boundary between Nettleton and West Kington parishes.

A stone relief of Diana and her hound, now in the Bristol City museum, was found here in 1911. Excavations in 1956-70 have uncovered a small Roman camp built on the hillside when the Fosse Way was constructed in A.D. 47 or soon after, and a small circular shrine dedicated to Apollo, dated a little later, on a knoll overlooking the river.

Before A.D. 230 a large building of basilican type was erected on the river adjoining the circular shrine. This probably accommodated the pilgrims attending anniversary feasts or a Brotherhood in connection with the shrine. Soon after 230 a large octagonal podium was constructed around the circular shrine, and the shrine was enclosed by a precinct wall with an entrance. A shop and a priest's house were also built within the precinct, and nearby, beside the road approaching the shrine, a large square hostelry with an internal courtyard provided accommodation for visiting pilgrims.

About A.D. 250 the circular shrine was destroyed by fire, probably by Irish raiders who came by way of the Bristol Channel. An elaborate octagonal shrine ca. 21 m in diameter replaced it, built on the octagonal podium which was strengthened for the purpose. The octagonal shrine was surrounded by an ambulatory, which had a pent roof supported by pillars with pilasters at each angle. Access to the shrine and ambulatory was by way of a small vestibule on the E side. Inside the building eight radial walls from each angle of the outer octagonal wall converged towards the center, forming a central octagon surrounded by eight arches which supported a central vaulted roof. The eight chambers formed by the radial walls were also vaulted. The walls and all the vaulted roofs were plastered and painted in various colors; they carried human representations, and floral and linear designs.

The central altar bore an inscription to the god Apollo, as did a small votive bronze plaque. Towards the middle of the 4th c. A.D. the shrine fell into disrepair, probably because of the decline of the pagan religion, and evidence suggests that the building was later used by Christians.

After A.D. 340 the settlement became industrialized: iron and bronze smelting were introduced, and a pewter casting industry for the production of paterae, dishes, and plates. Towards the end of the 4th c. the settlement was subjected to two devastating raids, presumably by Irish raiders. The raiders may have settled at Nettleton Scrubb. A small Christian cemetery lends support to this theory, but other evidence suggests a temporary resurgence of pagan rites in the former shrine.

The settlement came to an abrupt end when the inhabitants were massacred after A.D. 402. Many human bones bearing sword marks and axis vertebrae indicating decapitation, found within the former shrine, bear witness to the massacre. The many finds are an important part of the Romano-British gallery in the Bristol City museum.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

“Roman Britain,” JRS 29 (1939); 52 (1962); 59 (1969).

W. J. WEDLAKE

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