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GATCOMBE ROMAN SETTLEMENT

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The site of a Roman settlement at Gatcombe. Roman remains at Gatcombe were first recorded in 1839, when construction of a railway cutting uncovered Roman foundations, coins and burials etc. Excavations since 1954 have revealed a settlement of several phases of occupation, the first three being probably of a small native farmstead commencing circa 50-100 AD, with desertion about 200 AD. Re-occupation, in the form of a walled settlement, took place in the period 280-300 AD, with a trapezoidal area of at least 7 hectares contained within the defences. The enclosing wall was constructed of limestone masonry on its inner and outer faces, with a filling of marl. It was over 4 metres in thickness, implying a height of at least 3 to 4 metres. Nineteen buildings have been identified within the enclosure, all apparently of 'spartan' construction and mainly showing evidence of agricultural usage. The existence of a villa building at the southern end of the site is suggested however by the discovery of a colonnade, a mosaic, a stretch of fine masonry, a finely carved table-top, hypocaust tiles and baluster bases. There is little evidence of any road system within the enclosure; the buildings are placed in random order, and an extensive contemporary area of cultivation has been found within the defences. The interior arrangements are thus more suggestive of a defended villa estate, but the wall is exceptional, being comparable only with the 4th century defences of Mildenhall. Evidence of buildings outside the walls has been found in the south face of the railway cutting, and in a field and orchard west of the Court, making the total area of settlement perhaps as much as 10 hectares. The site was abruptly abandoned about 380 AD, but its later use as an ordinary farmstead is indicated by re-occupation circa 400 AD of some of the ruined stone buildings.

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