Sheriffhales Roman Investigation Report
The Sheriffhales Roman investigation was carried out by members of the Newport History Society on the 14th November 2013. It took place in the field where the ‘Sheriffhales Roman Coin Hoard’ was found by Mr Terry Hayward on the 2nd August 2009. The aim of the survey was to locate the site of the hoard and re-excavate it in an attempt to find further coins and pottery related to the original hoard. When the hoard was discovered, only the base of the pot was found to remain intact. The rest had been lost, probably due to the field being ploughed over many years. The hoard was found on a slope and the plan was to excavate a series of test pits at two metre intervals descending the slope, to locate further pot fragments and coins.
A fieldwalking and metal detecting survey of the field was also planned in an attempt to see if further examples of Roman pottery could be found spread around the field and other metal artefacts from the Roman period. Unfortunately, the weather had been particularly bad the week before our survey and as a result the ground was to wet to effectively excavate test pits. As a result only the fieldwalking and metal detecting surveys took place. However, both produced an interesting collection of finds. Various types of Roman pottery were recovered, with fragments found spread throughout the surveyed area. The majority of the pottery fragments found were various forms of ‘Severn Valley Ware.’ Such as storage jars, bowls and other forms of tableware. This form of pottery was produced locally from the 1st century AD and continued to be made locally well into up the late 4th century. Severn Valley ware has an oxidised (red colour) appearance with a fine micaceous fabric containing occasional limestone fragments ill-sorted rounded quartz and iron ore.
Fragments of a mortaria (mixing bowl) were also recovered. These kitchen vessels are very distinctive, with prominent grit fragments in the bowl. Mortaria were imported in the early 1st century and these early imports have thick wall sided rims, where as the locally produced are thinner with a more curved rim. The examples found at the hoard site are light in colour, unlike the locally made mortaria which have a red fabric and would appear to 1st century imports.
Mortaria fragments were also found in the original hole dug by Mr Hayward in 2009, around the hoard site during the Roman period. This was the basic form of kitchen ware in the early years of the Roman occupation of Britain, becoming the dominant form of everyday tableware by the end of the occupation in 410AD. It is usually decorated with a very simple cross hatch decoration around the side. Early forms of Black Burnished Ware are often found at Roman military sites.
The metal detectorists recovered a number of Roman items, the most important being two Roman fibula brooches.
Both appear to date from the period of the hoard, late 1st century to mid 2nd century. The brooches are poorly preserved, although one still retains some of its silver plating, although both have lost there pins and springs. A lead spindle whorl was also found on site. Resembling lead washers, spindle whorls were used in the early spinning tool known as a drop spindle, brought to Britain by the Romans and which continued in general use until the mid 17th century when they were eventually replaced by the spinning wheel.
A number as of yet unidentified brass objects were also found by the detectorists and these will need to be examined by experts in the Roman period to determine if they are related to the time of the hoard.
The Sheriffhales coin hoards location, so close to the 1st century Roman fort at Red Hill and the fact that most of the identified Roman artifacts date from that period suggest we may be dealing with civilian settlement, possibly related in some way to the fort either through trade, or other form of service.