Lower Slaughter

Pages 78-80

Ancient and Historical Monuments in the County of Gloucester Iron Age and Romano-British Monuments in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1976.

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(15 miles N.E. of Cirencester)

For general map, see p. 18, s.v. Bourton-on-theWater.

Lower Slaughter. (1) Romano-British settlement, Chessels.

The S. boundary of the parish follows the Foss Way. This stretch of Roman road, contemporary structures along it, and the junction with the now obliterated Ryknild Street are noted under Bourton-on-the Water (2b) and (3). Buckle Street, running N.N.W. from Bourton Bridge, is an ancient route possibly used in the Roman period (see p. xlv). During the war of 1914–18 an inhumed male skeleton with hob-nailed footwear was found in an Oolite coffin on a hill-slope close to Buckle Street, probably near (4). (fn. 1)

A pit containing two iron knives, red colour-coated rosette-stamped ware and other Romano-British pottery was found in a gravel pit just N. of the R. Dikler at Lower Slaughter village (about SP 163227); (fn. 2) adjacent was a short length of wall, possibly contemporary. The finds are in the Royce Collection in Bristol City Museum.

(1) Romano-British Settlement (SP 175231–SP 174226), Chessels, extending over more than 25 acres of alluvial gravels (plan opposite) and now largely destroyed by quarrying, lies N. of the Foss Way and overlies traces of earlier occupation. Ground observation, air photographs, and methodical examination and extensive excavation of the stripped gravel surface by Mrs. H. E. O'Neil since 1954 have revealed ditches, pits and the sites of structures in three contiguous fields: from N. to S., Great Chessels, Little Chessels (both referred to as the Farnworth gravel-pit) and the George Young gravel-pit. Ring-ditches (apparently including barrows) have been recorded in the last named area, together with Romano-British ditches, pits, post-holes, stone paving, and coins ranging from the early 2nd to the 4th century; a single cist burial was associated with a coin of Magnentius.

Indications, much disturbed, of Romano-British occupation occur over Great and Little Chessels. They include at least two rectangular buildings, round huts, a probable shrine or temple, eleven wells, and evidence for iron working, agriculture and possibly for the fashioning of stone. There were three burials, two being of infants. Pottery of Iron-Age form and a La Tène III brooch suggest that the settlement was pre-Roman in origin. Of three coin hoards found, one is of the 3rd and two are of the 4th century.

The recorded pattern of settlement in Great and Little Chessels is seen in the plan, where the notation used by Mrs. O'Neil is repeated. An air photograph (Plate 53) shows features additional to those marked on the plan, especially to S.E. where a broad way appears to be defined by ditches some 100 ft. apart, with further enclosures beyond; to N.E. a continuous bounding ditch seems to define the limits of the settlement.

Much of the site was formerly under ridge-and-furrow cultivation and this, together with earlier robbing and subsequent mechanical stripping of the surface, has caused much destruction or disturbance. Former buildings were indicated by ditches, occasional post-holes, and fragments of paving. Some were circular. One of these, apparently in use during the early 4th century, lay under a rectangular structure (47) with dressed and coursed stone footings 2 ft. wide enclosing an area 43 ft. by 23 ft., thought to have been divided into six rooms; it was built c. A.D. 350. Local stone slates, many nails, fragments of columns and traces of painted wall-plaster were found here. Pitched stone paving lay outside this and also outside another certainly rectangular building (67), identified by a line of 'veranda' postholes and paved floors. Fragments of monumental masonry including pieces of column came from well 5, 36 yds. N. of structure 47, and from pit 20, 110 yds. S.S.E. Stone slates lay on paving E. of pit 20. Fragments of votive tablet were found at structure 47 and in pit 20, and eight votive objects came from well 5. A group of sub-rectangular ditch patterns S. of structures 47 and 67 are similarly aligned one with another, but a large complex of shallow ditches 180 yds. E. of 67 lies in a different orientation. Of the eleven wells noted, two were in the N. part of the last named complex, where also were found two burials. All wells were about 20 ft. deep and 2 ft. in diameter at the head, the latter usually stone-lined; well 8 was in an enclosure. Pits were generally shallow and irregular, but one was straight-sided and flat-bottomed; it contained rubbish. A corndrier was of 4th-century date, and two probable forges occurred near structure 67 and pit 20.

Romano-British finds include coins from the mid 1st to the late 4th or early 5th century. There were three hoards. One found in a pot late in the 19th century is said to have numbered 1,500 coins, mostly minimissimi, together with a silver coin of Valens. A disturbed hoard of 134 coins, dating from 260–75, came from a bronzestudded chest buried in a hole covered by the courtyard paving of structure 67. The third hoard, also disturbed, was apparently buried in a bag in a deep ditch immediately W. of the floor in structure 83. It consisted of 1,170 coins dating from the middle to the end of the 4th century and included 482 minimissimi. Abundant pottery represents periods from the 1st to the 4th century. Votive objects, all damaged, comprise: from well 5 at varying depths, two small uninscribed portable altars, a similar altar with very crude sculpture, three votive plaques of Mars and of genii cucullati, and two small statuettes of seated headless figures; a fragment of votive tablet came from building 47 and another, as noted above, from pit 20. A small relief of Minerva found in 1769 (Camden's Britannia (ed. Gough, 1789), I, 279, Pl. xiv, fig. 8) probably came from this settlement. Nine late 4th-century glass vessels come from structure 47. Iron objects include bolts, a rake, a doorlatch, chisels and, from the probable forge near building 67, an anvil and a 24-lb iron pig. Numerous nails and slag come from the area of the probable forge near pit 20, and coal was found near by. There were quern fragments (area 83), and a Kimmeridge shale bracelet. A miniature bronze bird, probably from a pin, was found on the surface. There were many animal bones and oyster shells. The bronze bird, the coins and some of the pottery are in Gloucester City Museum; the other finds are in private possession.

N.M.R., OAP SP 1722/4 and 1723/1–4 (Baker).

Ant J, XII (1932), 279–93. Oxon, XX (1955), 5–7. TBGAS, VII (1882–3), 71–2; 56 (1934), 133–9; 61 (1939), 114, 123 (finds in G. Young's gravel-pit); 89 (1960), 121 (barrows 1 a-c). PPS, XXVII (1961), 296 (Young's gravel-pit). Num. Chron. XX (1960), 275–7 (coins). JRS, XLVIII (1958), 49–55. Toynbee (1964), 161, 177, 178, 181. H. E. O'Neil in Studies in Building History, 1961 (ed. Jope), 27–38.

(2) Enclosure (SP 169221), undated, shows as cropmarks (Plate 55) immediately W. of the stream by Slaughter Bridge and 100 yds. from the Foss Way. Three sides are seen, containing an area of about 3 acres. Entrances in the N. and E. sides are respectively some 20 ft. and 30 ft. wide. The E. side ends sharply on the S. (cf. Southrop (1)). Air photographs show the W. side butting against extensive pitting where the S. side might have been. Map, p. 18.

N.M.R., OAP SP 1622/6–9 (Baker); 1622/5/355. C.U.A.P., OAP ABR 83, AZN 35.

(3) Romano-British Settlement (SP 16102216—SP 15832224), Spring Hill, is known from finds and excavation by Miss M. Travell and Mr. F. Gardiner. Cropmarks in the area include features almost certainly Romano-British; at SP 15832224 they show an enclosure about 100 ft. long from N. to S. and 60 ft. wide (map, p. 18, s.v. Bourton). Fourth-century Romano-British pottery as well as building debris have been found in the vicinity. About 250 ft. to W. crop-marks show a N.-S. linear boundary. A ditched track (d) about 20 ft. wide extends for at least 250 yds. W.S.W. from the modern road at SP 15842255. Scattered Romano-British pottery occurs in the modern field around it, and between it and the excavated area 500 yds. to S.E.

Excavation at SP 16042220, N.W. of a road and lane junction about 80 yds. W. from the present spring of Spring Hill, exposed stone floors, an oven and small pits, but no walls. Some pottery was found S.W. of the lane junction.

Finds include coins, mostly 4th century, but ranging from Hadrian to Arcadius and Honorius. Pottery was preponderantly late Roman and of a notably diverse range of fabrics including Oxfordshire, Nene Valley and New Forest products; there was a little 2nd-century samian ware and calcite-gritted ware presumably of late date. Bronze objects included spoons, a bow brooch, a ring-headed pin, a small decorated hook, fragments of bracelets and a finger ring. There were shears and a socketed spear-head, both of iron. Glass beads were found.

N.M.R., OAP SP 1522/1–4; 1622/3/350–2.

Archaeol. Review, 6 (1971), 28. Information from Miss M. Travell.

(4) Circular Enclosure (SP 157221), undated, appears as a crop-mark (Plate 65) on the ridge-top about 100 yds. W. of (3). About 180 ft. across, it is defined by two seemingly continuous narrow ditches set close together in uncertain relationship, but probably intersecting on the E. side. It probably lies over part of an irregular, broader ditch which curves N.E. from it.

N.M.R., OAP (Baker) SP 1522/1–4.


  • 1. Ant J, I (1921), 340–1. Oral information from Miss M. Travell.
  • 2. TBGAS, VII (1882–3), 80; 83 (1964), 12.