Bere Regis Village Website

The Roman Period

After the Roman conquest of AD 43, the first task the occupying forces undertook was the construction of a network of good flint paved, wide, straight roads covering the whole country. 
The system of trackways which they had inherited, being no more than footpaths, were far below the standards required for Roman military purposes, although in some cases the new roads followed more or less the same routes.
Roman roads were built to very high standards, consisting usually of a raised causeway surfaced with flints and with flanking ditches on either side to ensure good drainage; indeed, such standards of road building were not attained again in Britain until the turnpike roads of the 18th century.
Roman surveying techniques were of an equally high standard, as the routes were set out in almost perfectly straight lines from one station or town to the next.

One of the major Roman roads concerns this parish - the Via Iceniana which ran from Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter) by way of Londinium (London) to Venta Icenorum (Caister St. Edmunds, Norfolk).
This latter town was the centre of an area inhabitated by a tribe known as the Iceni which gave its name to the road, and Icen Way, a street in Dorchester through which the road passed, gets its name from the same source.
This road passes across the northern part of this parish, entering it near Ashley Barn and leaving at Bagwood Copse. Below you can see a Map of the road, as it crosses our Parish.
Some sections of the causeway where it occurs on higher ground can still be quite clearly seen, but all traces of it have vanished where it crossed the valleys except during very dry periods when it can sometimes be seen as crop marks across the fields.
This particular stretch is an almost straight line from Durnovaria (Dorchester) to Vindogladia (Badbury Rings) and passes through the centres of three present day villages - Tolpuddle, Winterbourne Kingston & Shapwick.
In July 1949 the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments excavated a cross section of the road near Bagwood Copse, and at this point the causewayed road itself proved to have a width of 20 feet (6 metres).
It was paved with a thin layer of flints on a base of sandy clay laid on the natural chalk, and the flanking ditches were 59 feet (18 metres) apart, centre to centre.

Where this road approached the summit of Bere Down from the south west in the vicinity of Bronze Age barrow no. 24, it ascended by way of a cutting into the side of the hill forming what appeared to be a section of fortified banking, and in subsequent years, after the road had fallen into disuse, some of the flints were dug from its surface at this point for building purposes, leaving a series of pits. These two factors combined to give rise to the supposition in Victorian times that this was an ancient British settlement and earthwork, the pits being presumed to be the remains of pit dwellings.
Consequently, on older Ordnance maps the site is marked as such.

The Iron Age hill-forts which the Romans inherited were probably used by them as defensive positions or sentry posts, and in some cases, as at Hod Hill, a typically Roman square earthwork was added on the top.
In 1960 a Roman coin of Septimus Severus (193-211) was found at a depth of about 3 feet (0.9 metre) in the western bank of Woodbury Hill when a pipe trench was being dug, and suggests that this hill-fort continued to be used during the Roman Period.
The Romans would use old standing stones from the Megalithic period as markers for their roads & there is an example next to the village.
The Stone shown here is the 'Devil's Stone' and is a Heathstone Monolith.
It was used by the Romans as a marker close to a Roman Road on the summit of Black Hill.
Archaeological Excavations - 1962

Soon after the Roman conquest there began more than three centuries of peace and general prosperity, during which time Britons enjoyed the law, order, security and other benefits of Roman rule.
Under these circumstances, together with a good road system, agriculture, trade and industry flourished, and towns and small settlements became established.
Such a settlement was situated in what is now Bagwood Field north of Bere Down, alongside the Roman road, and seems to have originated in about 80 AD, remaining in continuous occupation until about 350 AD.

It had been recognised as a Romano-British site as long ago as 1860 when Charles Warne, the Dorset historian, discovered a well on the site containing much pottery, and other material, and fragments of Roman pottery have frequently appeared on the surface of the field.
In July 1962 aerial photographs revealed the outlines of a circular area and a field system, and from 1962 to 1966 the site was systematically excavated under the direction of Geoffrey Toms.
The site as a whole has an area of about 5 acres (2 hectares) and lies on either side of the road.
The feature of chief interest proved to be another well (additional to the one discovered in1860 which was said to have been lined with stone) of a constant diameter of 42-44 inches (105-110cm) cut in the natural chalk with pairs of putlog holes on each side of the shaft at 16 inch (40cm) intervals.
It was excavated to a depth of 70 feet (21 metres) and the filling was still dry at this level.
The filling of the well consisted of soil and large quantities of daub, some of which bore plank and wattle imprints suggesting the remains of a hut, interspersed with many fragments of pottery, coins and other objects.
The six coins recovered from the well range from Trajan (98-117) to Tetricus I (270-273), and it has been possible to reconstruct some almost complete pots from the many fragments of pottery.
One complete jar was found at a depth of 60 feet (18 metres). Small bronze objects included brooches, rings, an ornamental pin, a spoon and an ear-ring, whilst iron objects included a knife, an ox-goad and a bill-hook.
The well filling also contained fragments of rotary quern-stones, a Purbeck burr-stone mortar, part of a shale jar and a bone counter. Besides the bones of cattle, horses, pigs, birds, rodents and fish, there were cockle, oyster, mussel and whelk shells.

There were a number of pits in the area around the well, one of which had a diameter of 31 feet (9 metres) and a depth of 7 feet (2 metres).
These pits were probably dug originally in order to obtain gravel for the making or repair of the adjacent road, and were subsequently filled at the end of the first century to form, it seems, a level area around the well.
A small jar with a lid had been deliberately inserted in the top layer of filling to the large pit, and two gullies were found running through the levelled area, which had been filled with 2nd century material and pottery.
See examples of the pottery in the drawings above.
A sleeper beam trench associated with a fragmentary chalk floor were the only definite traces of a building to be found, and although some post holes were observed, no regular pattern could be discerned.
     Weaving tools made from animal bones, spindle whorls and large quantities of ferruginous sandstone and iron slag indicate that weaving and iron smelting were carried on as industries in addition to the usual agricultural work.

One of the coins is probably unique, in that it is a silver deraarius of the emperor Gordian I, who reigned for only 22 days in All 238, and is believed to be the only such coin to be recovered in an archaeological excavation in Britain.

Fragments of pottery, both coarse and samian were found in abundance over the whole site, and provide evidence for the dating of the site. The following list includes all the objects found (other than pottery) up to 1966:
Coins-1, Native British (Durotrigian) in struck bronze, probably of the first half of the 1 st century AD (all the other coins are Roman Imperial);
2, 12-11 BC Augustus (denarius);
3, 41-54 AD Claudius (as);
4, circa 50 AD Claudius (imitation as);
5, 54-68, Nero (as);
6, 69-79, Vespasian (as);
7, Latter half of lst century AD perhaps Vespasian (as);
8, 98-99, Trajan (as);
9, 104-117, Trajan (sestertius);
10, 112-117, Trajan (dupondius);
11, 113-117, Diva VIarciana (sestertius);
12, 134-138, Hadrian (sestertius);
13, circa 141, Diva Faustina I (sestertius);
14, circa 141, Diva Faustina I (sestertius);
15, circa 141, Diva Faustina I (as);
16, 176-180, Commodus under Marcus Aurelius (sestertius);
17, I81-182, Commodus (base denarius);
18, 238, Gordian I (denarius);
19, 253-259, Valerian I (denarius);
20, 259-268, Gallienus (antnninianus);
21, 268-270 Claudius II;
22, circa 270, Claudius II;
23, circa 270, Claudius II;
24, circa 270, Claudius II (imitation);
25, 270-274, Tetricus I, (radiate imitation);
26, 270-274, Tetricus I;
27, 270-274, Tetricus I;
28, 270-274, Tetricus I, (antoninianus);
29, 270-274, Tetricus I, (antoninianus);
30, circa 275 (radiate imitation);
31, late 3rd century (radiate imitation);
32, 293-296, Allectus (antoninianus);
33, 320-324, Constantine I;
34-38, 330-335, Constantine I (urbs Roma issue);
39, 330-335, Constantine I (urbs Roma issue imitation);
40, 330-335, Constantine I (urbs Roma issue);
41-42, 330-335, Constantine I, (Constantinopolis issue);
43, 330-335, Constantine I (Constantinopolis issue imitation);
44, 330-335, Constantine I (gloria exercitus issue);
45-46, 341-346, Constantinus II or Constans.

Brooches-22 in all, including fragments, all of late 1st to end of 2nd century types.
See drawings of the brooches above.
Other Bronze Objects-
1, Spiral ring in the form of a stylised snake;
2, Ring of signet Iorm;
3, Octagonal ring, probably silver or silvered bronze;
4, Half of a pair or tweezers;
5, Fragment of a bracelet;
6, Half of a bracelet;
7, Ligula or ointment spoon;
8, Hinged bronze rod, purpose unknown;
9, Ear-ring;
10, Pin with a terminal head;
11, Stud with red enamelling;
12, Fragment of a chain link:.
13, Bronze loop, possibly part of a brooch;
14, Small fragment what appears to be bronze plating.

Iron Objects-
1, Knife;
2, Knife blade;
3, Brooch;
4, Small reaping hook;
5, Triangular plate with bronze rivet;
6, Hinge (?);
7, Brooch (?);
8, Cleat;
9, Ox-goad;
10, Small triangular plate;
11, Steelyard.

Shale Objects-
l-9, Fragments of incised tablets, ranging in size from llin. x 62in. (28 x 17cm) to l;in. x lin. (3 x 2.5cm);
10-12, 3 fragments of armlet;
13, Laminated spindle whorl;
14, Spindle Whorl;
15, 3 fragments of a bowl.

Spindle Whorls-In addition to the two shale whorls there were 6 spindle whorls of pottery.

1, Lathe-turned bone;
2, Pottery;
3, Chalk (?);
4, Hand cut bone.

Querns-Three fragments of upper rotary querns, being respectively approximately one half, one sixth and one eighth of the original.

Bone Objects-In addition to the two bone counters, there were two fragments of bone needles.

1, Fragment of a Purbeck burr-stone mortar;
2-4, 3 clipped pot bases;
5-6, 2 chalk tesserae;
7, Flint tessera;
8, Handled bone;
9-10, Fragments of bones;
11, Whetstone fragment.

1, Fractured scraper;
2, Secondarily worked flake.
Archeological Excavations - 2009 & 2010

Further Archaeological Digging occured in 2009 & 2010, when Bournemouth University Archaeologists excavated a Site to the north of the Village.
You can see a modern Map of the Site by clicking here
The Durotriges were a tribe who lived in Dorset.
They are usually thought to have been among the most resistant to Roman rule and built their own forts at sites including Maiden Castle and Hod Hill. TV Historian, Dr Alice Roberts, attended part of the Dig whilst filming for her "Dig for Britain" TV Series which then featured this Dig in August 2011.
You can see a modern Map of the Site by clicking here

Peace, prosperity & plenty of pomegranates from their far flung empire, kept local Roman Governors more than content...