Roman Structures in South Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 11 November 2014. Posted in Archaeology

Recent works in the south of the county have revealed lots of interesting remains, but I particularly like these two features. The reports are in the process of being produced, so are not yet in the public domain, so I’m not going to say exactly where they are right now. However, I thought it would be nice to share them, if only to show that even below ground archaeology can still be pretty exciting. These are just snaps, so they don’t have all the scales and north arrows that are in the proper site photos.

In the Romano-British period, grain driers (which have also been interpreted as malting floors) are usually relatively small and domestic in nature. We have seen quite a few of these smaller structures in Wiltshire recently, but the ones I’m about to talk about are more substantial. The domestic sized ones typically have a fire pit, a flue and a T-shaped top where the superstructure would have sat over the top with the heat coming up through the floor.

When we found the first of these structures, we were pretty impressed. None of us had ever seen such a big grain dryer before.

You can just about see that there is a central flue running away from the camera and then a cross piece to form the ‘T’. The flue is lined with flint nodules and also had pieces of stone on the sides of the wall and the base. The rest of the structure is also lined with flint nodules. The sides are stepped suggesting a substantial super-structure.

This is a picture of the side of the flue, showing one of the substantial pieces of stone on the side of the flue.

This was a very interesting feature and none of us had ever seen one this big from the Roman period. So we were very excited when we found an even nicer one!

This is what it looked like when it was first excavated. If you look closely, you can see the animal skull that has been placed in the filled in flue. You can also see that this one has a big pit at this end and a proper stone flagged floor. Originally, we’d thought that the pit at this end was a fire pit, but there was no burning in this end. As we further excavated the flue it became clear that this was actually an area for feeding the fire, which was within the flue itself.

As we excavated the structure further we found that this was a really sophisticated structure, that had been altered during its life to shorten the flue.

The builders had also reused other artefacts such as this quern stone when they built it.

This is the dryer again as it is being excavated further. The rebuild is much more obvious now.


These are only two of the fascinating features on this and other sites in the area. I’ll post more once the site has been written up.

Clare King
Assistant County Archaeologist


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