Farndon Local History Pages

Farndon Archaeology and Exploration

Townfield Lane Roman Fortlet excavation

Townfield Lane Roman Fortlet excavation

The site

Following on from the survey project of the Roman Legionary Tile and Pottery works in 2018, research continued into the surrounding area in the hope that previously undiscovered sites may come to light. In 2021 Chris Matthews of Archaeological Survey West, who had carried out the survey of the tile works in 2017/18, announced,

We have been busy researching for a project we started in Farndon Cheshire, very close to the Holt Roman Tile Works (we surveyed in 2018). The assumption is that it’s Roman, but we are hoping for something more definitive. We aim to make sense of a small rectangular bank and ditch enclosure near Farndon. So far we have been modelling LiDAR data and combining it with a small magnetic survey we undertook last month. There is more to do and more methods to try but so far so good!
Chris Matthews, Archaeological Survey West, 12 Nov 2021

Townfield Lane site - LiDAR
The rectangular crop mark to the left of the fish farm.
Townfield Lane site - LiDAR - note the medieval ridge and furrow traversing the site and is clearly evident elsewhere on both sides of the river
Townfield Lane site - LiDAR
Townfield Lane site - LiDAR
Townfield Lane site - LiDAR
Townfield Lane site -
LiDAR comparison
Tile works site on the left bank beyond Holt, and the Townfield Lane site in the field at the centre top, within the river loop, to the left of the fish farm (photo: Webaviation)
Tile works site in the foreground, and the Townfield Lane site in the field at the centre top within the river loop, to the left of the fish farm (photo: Carwyn Rhys Jones)

The Townfield Lane site at ground level (pic: Chris Matthews)

Village consultation
Village consultation
Village consultation
Fund raising contribution form
After assessing the site during early 2022, there was a further announcement,
We are launching a cross border archaeology project for the communities of Holt & Farndon, giving people the chance to discover and get hands on with their local history. Come and browse the project information and listen to the key talks at either 11am or 3pm by our project team. The open day will be held on the 2nd of July between two venues, the first is Farndon Memorial hall between 10:00 and 12:00. We will then move the display to the Kenyon Hall in Holt between 14:00 and 16:00 (where we will repeat the talk). The excavation is set to start on September the 10th for 10 days and will look at part of Holt & Farndon’s Roman past, by investigating a mysterious playing card shaped enclosure near Townfield lane. It is believed this enclosure may be a Roman military fort linked to the tile and pottery works at Holt.
Chris Matthews, Archaeological Survey West LLP

The Consultation Day was a success, with 120 people attending the two sessions in Farndon and Holt. It is hoped that enough funding can be secured to enable the full investigation to go ahead. The contribution form is above should you wish to make a donation or be involved in the project.

  Chris Matthews @ChrisM_ASW   Follow Chris on Twitter

View LiDAR animation


· The Context

It is assumed at this stage that the Townfield Lane site relates, or is contemporary to the Roman Tile works just upstream on the Holt side of the Dee. But it may also help our understanding of the wider Chester hinterland during the Roman period, especially in relation to other discoveries in Rossett, Plas Coch in Wrexham, Eaton-by-Tarporley, Heronbridge and Halkyn Mountain.

Familiarisation of the Holt site is essential to aid understanding of the relevance and interest in the Townfield Lane project;

Hidden Holt: The Story of a Roman Site

The Discovery of Roman Legionary Tile and Pottery Works, at Holt, near Wrexham

II: Geophysical Survey of the Holt Roman Tile and Pottery Works, 2018

by Chris Matthews, John Cubitt and Paul Hinchliffe

Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society, Volume 89 for 2019

Rossett Roman Villa

In the light of the discovery of the Roman lead ingot near Rossett in 2019, a partnership project was established between the University of Chester and Wrexham Museum with the aim of investigating its wider archaeological context. As part of this, the footprint of a winged-corridor villa was identified. This article outlines the initial findings and their potential significance.

In October 2020 geophysical surveys were conducted at a site in Burton Green, Rossett, by the University of Chester, Wrexham Museum and Archaeological Survey West as part of a project entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Trebellius Maximus’. The results revealed a Roman winged corridor villa, outbuildings, associated field system and trackway. The existence of the complex had been hinted at through stray finds and metal detecting over a number of years, and a subsequent Historic Environment Record entry postulated a high-status Roman building, possibly a villa. Through magnetometry, the presence of a villa has now been confirmed.

Caroline Pudney and Steve Grenter

A Roman Villa near Rossett

by Caroline Pudney and Steve Grenter

Journal Chester Archaeology Society (new series no.91, 2021, 179–193)

Rossett Roman villa archaeological dig gets under way (BBC News)

Rossett lead ingot

The first indication of a site near Rossett was the discovery of a lead ingot or pig. A pig is a roughly rectangular bar of mined metal that is shaped to be convenient for transportation to a location where it can be processed.

Rossett Roman ingot

Metal detectorist Rob Jones discovered a metal object in a field near Rossett and careful digging revealed the corner of a lead object with ‘writing’ on it. When fully revealed, the inscription appeared to mention Marcus Trebellius Maximus, who was the governor of the province of Britannia under the Emperor Nero from AD 63-69. The Rossett find represents the only example of an inscription bearing his name ever found in the UK, and one of very few from the empire as a whole. Trebellius was partly responsible for bringing stability to Britannia after Boudica’s revolt in AD 60/1, although he was ultimately forced out of the province by mutinous Roman soldiers who were dissatisfied with the lack of military activity under his governorship.

Rossett Roman ingot

Featured in British Archaeology October 2020

It is among the earliest dated inscriptions recording Roman seizure of Britain’s mineral wealth and testifies to its rapid exploitation following the spread of Roman power across the island. The production of the ingot presupposes prospection for metals, expropriation of mining sites and the mobilisation of labour, forced or voluntary, to mine and process metal-rich ores. The inscription also illustrates the bureaucratic control exercised over the production of valuable metals.

Rob Jones, very responsibly, reported the find to the archaeological authorities, and it has now been acquired by Wrexham Museum.

The Roman Villa at Rossett #2 – Some background to the excavation

Blog pages by professional archaeologist Andie Byrnes, featuring this excellent account of the contextual background of the Rossett site within the Chester hinterland, and its relation to contemporary discoveries.

In fact, the whole basedinchurton.co.uk website is fascinating, and well worth a follow. See also the Roman Road article by Andie (link in Further Reading below).

  Based in Churton @BasedInChurton   Follow Andie on Twitter

The Townfield Lane Site Through Time

Townfield Lane - 1840 Tithe Map & ownership
Townfield Lane - 1840 Tithe Map - modern comparison
Townfield Lane - 1895 OS Map
Townfield Lane - 1971-73 aerial view
Townfield Lane - 1999-2003 aerial view
Townfield Lane - 2010 aerial view
Townfield Lane - 2015-2017 aerial view
Townfield Lane - Modern map

   www.farndon.org.uk @FarndonCheshire   Don't forget to follow us too!

The Townfield Lane Site - Regular Flooding

As local residents will testify, the lower Townfield Lane site floods regularly, sometimes two to three times a year, presenting archaeologists with potential additional problems in analysing the site due to alluvial deposits.

The flooded River Dee below Farndon.
The sweep in the river at Almere can be made out in the centre.
The fortlet site is just off camera to the bottom left off Townfield Lane.

Map showing the Dee Flood Plain with the fortlet site circled.

Cheshire Historic Towns Survey

by Mike Shaw and Jo Clark

Farndon - An Archaeological Assessment

Environmental Planning Cheshire County Council

Revealing Cheshire's Past

From Farm to Fortress - II: The Romans


Cheshire County Council

Further reading

Books and Papers:

Greene, K. The Archaeology of the Roman Economy. Batsford (1986)

Johnston, D.E. Roman Villas. Shire Archaeology (1994).

Mason, D.J.P. Roman Chester. City of the Eagles. Tempus (2007) (2nd edition).

Matthews, C Geophysical methodology for the Holt Roman tile works v1.1. (Unpublished report). Wrexham: Archaeological Survey West LLP (2017)

Matthews, C Holt Roman tilery and pottery: geophysical investigations (Unpublished report). Wrexham: Archaeological Survey West LLP (2018)

Online (in addition to those above)

Pudney, C. The highs and lows of archaeology: In the footsteps of Trebellius Maximus. Archaeology Chester, 16th Apr 2021

Andie Byrnes/Based in Churton;
A touch of Rome just east of Churton #1 – Background to the Roman Road. 3rd April 2021

Clark, J. Cheshire Historic Towns Survey. Tarporley. Archaeological Assessment(2003). Environmental Planning, Cheshire County Council

North, F.J. Mining for Metals in Wales. National Museum of Wales (1962).


Lane Farm Cropmarks, Rossett  http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/409231/details.html

Plas Coch Romano-British Settlement  https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/422290/

Wrexham County Borough Museum and Archives

The Rossett Lead Pig www.wrexhamheritage.wales/explore/#rossettpig

Researched and written by Mike Royden

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