The Romans at Llys Nini, Loughor and South Wales

Gwyn Jones in his 1993 Book A History of Gorseinon and its environs, claims that there was a Roman Practice fort at Llys Nini. This is entirely possible as there are at least 2 other practice forts in the area. Unfortunately it is impossible to prove as the area in question went under open cast mining in the 1960s.

 

The old farm track leading west towards the Loughor is commonly called the Roman Road. It would have led directly to the banks of the river, and intersected with the proposed Roman Road between the fort at Loughor and the river ford at Llandeilo Talybont.

 

Julius Caesar landed in Britain in both 55 and 54 BC but withdrew his army back to Gaul due to insurrection there.

The Romans truly invaded Britain in 43AD, they documented their progress and therefore started “History”.

 

There was resistance from many British tribes, including the local Silures. The name Silures may be of Latin origin, meaning ‘the people of the Rocks', if this is true, there does not seem to any record of what these people actually called themselves.

 

 As the Romans moved west, the Silures fought hard to resist but by around 74/3 AD the Second Augustan Legion had not only reached Loughor but had established a fort there.

 

The Roman name for Loughor was Leucarum. They built a fort  and a port there and a small civilian town developed.  A roman road ran from Neath to Loughor and on to Carmarthen but there is a question  about whether the Romans crossed the River Loughor at Loughor or a little way to the north at a place later to be called Llandeilo Talybont.

 

The last Roman troops left Loughor in 310 and Britain in 407. In 410 the leaders of the Romano-Celts sent a letter to the Roman Emperor Honorius, appealing for help. However he had no troops to spare and he told the Britons they must defend themselves.

Roman civilisation slowly broke down and by the 5th century Roman civilisation in the countryside had  faded away.

                  

 

Roman Loughor or Leucarum

 

 

The Romans built an auxiliary fort at Loughor, which they called Leucarum. The fort was on the banks of the River Loughor, which they called Leuca Fluvius.

 

The fort was built for soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion whose main camp was at Caerleon.  The fort may have been supplied by road or by sea.  Loughor stands on a Roman Road between Nidum (Neath)   and Moridunum (Carmarthen).  However, remains of a small port have been found  so it is possible that supplies were brought to the fort by sea.

 

 

“A Roman military settlement, centred on a round-angled, rectangular enclosure, about 200m north-east to south-west by 140m, with an extensive area of occupation identified to the east, possibly strung out along a road; the medieval castle (Nprn417) occupies the eastern angle of the fort enclosure, with the parish church (Nprn13509) placed roughly centrally.
Extensive excavations have identified eight periods of occupation the fort being established in about 73/4AD and abandoned about 120AD, with a re-occupation, in the period 260-310AD.”  (2, 4, 5, 6)

 

 

The fort was occupied 3 times, from the late 1st to the mid 2nd century AD and then in late 2nd and lastly in the late 3rd to early 4th centuries.

 

Excavations at the fort and later excavations across defences and in the south-western interior unearthed a number of finds some of which are housed at Swansea Museum, while the main body is at NMGW.  (132, 133, 134).

            

Roman Altar Stone from Loughor

 

The pagan altar stone was found in the Rectory garden during the 1850s. It was an important clue to finding the exact location of the Roman fort. It was used as the step of a stile in the Rectory hedge and later, as a birdbath! In 1951 it was brought to Swansea Museum for safe-keeping. The altar is 110cm high and made of sandstone, a soft rock. There is  a depression, possibly carved, in the top would have been used for burning sacrifices.

There is Ogham writing along the upright edge of the altar stone. Ogham was used in Ireland between 400 and 700 A.D., after the Romans left Britain. It is thought that the presence of the script indicates that Irish raiders often visited Loughor. Indeed, there is a hypothesis that these raiders took slaves from West Wales to Ireland, one of those kidnapped was the boy who later became famous as St Patrick of Ireland.

 The Ogham letters are formed by groups of straight lines which are read from the bottom to the top. The inscription may read L ....LICA, meaning 'Stone of..' , or possibly GRAVICA, which was an Irish name, which may indicate a re-using of the stone as a memorial in the fifth or early sixth century.

                                            

 

Roman Roads

 

 

 Loughor was linked to Neath (Nidum) and Caerleon to the East and Carmarthen to the West by a major road (RR60d), latterly named Julia Maritima.

 

Locally the section of Roman Road runs East West from Neath via Carn Coch and Stafford Common to Loughor, possibly with a fork toward a river crossing at or neat Llandeilo Talybont.

 

The RR60d ran from Loughor, which was at best a poor place to cross the Loughor, north of Pontarddulais (136)

The exact route of the road to Loughor is not known but its presence is cited in the Antonine Itinerary (Inter Xll).  However, excavation has shown that at least part of it followed the Swansea to Loughor B4620 road at SS6195096580, SS 648098040 South of the 2 practice forts at Garn Goch (Carn Coch) and north of Stafford Common, then along the A464 and into the forts East Gate. 136

 

Rivet and Smith 137  suggest that the Antonine Itinerary gives the most likely road from Loughor to Carmarthen is not to cross the river at Loughor but to proceed North from the Fort  to an easier crossing between  Pontarddulais and Hendy at SS5855002980, near Llandeilo Talybont.  This was an important crossing place in medieval times but no evidence of a Roman ford has yet been found. There are 2 ancient earthworks in that area including Llandeilo Castle.

 

 

 “The Roman Road” on Llys Nini site is an old track that, if continued west, would meet the proposed road which may have run from the fort at Loughor to the crossing point at Llandeilo Talybont.  However other than the name there is absolutely no evidence that it was ever a Roman Road. Furthermore Dr Edith Evans of GGAT saw no signs at all of it ever being such.  However the fields to the South of the lane and North of the woodland are recorded on the Tithe Map as Cae Franck , which  Deric John  translates  as Cae Tranch in Welsh as ” woodland path”, which may indicate that the pathway was of considerable age. Before the building of the M4 the lane provided access to the Swansea Road from the Farm.