Caerleon Net
Roman Finds Inside The Mynde

In the middle of the 19th century John Jenkins, the owner of the Mynde, made substantial alterations to the grounds. In the process extensive Roman remains were uncovered. He invited amateur antiquarian John Lee to study and record the discoveries.

John Lee had moved to South Wales from Yorkshire in 1841 to become a partner in the Dos Nail Works, Newport. He took up residence in the Priory, Caerleon, which was owned by the Mackworth family. Both John Lee and Sir Digby Mackworth were keen amateur antiquarians. It is largely due to their efforts that the 'Monmouthshire and Caerleon Antiquarian Society' was formed and that the museum was built (in 1850).

Luckily for us Lee worked systematically and made detailed observations, which included plans of the remains and etchings showing the uncovered remains and objects found. This was fortunate as it is the only record we have of the Roman buildings there. (It seems Jenkins later removed all trace of them.) Lee published his findings in a pamphlet entitled: "Remains Of the Roman Villa &c &c In The Castle Grounds Caerleon". In the preface, dated 3rd November 1849 and written in The Priory, he states:

"The profits (if any) arising from the sale of this pamphlet will be devoted to the funds of the Museum of Antiquities at Caerleon. To those who are unacquainted with the neighbourhood, it may be well to state that a Museum is now in the course of erection in which nearly all the Antiquities of Caerleon will be deposited. The building is now covered in but though the sum of about five hundred pounds has already been collected chiefly in the neighbourhood, yet this amount has been found insufficient, and in order to complete the interior so as to exhibit in a proper manner the large number of antiquities which will be deposited there, a further sum of about one hundred pounds is necessary. As the immediate neighbourhood has contributed liberally, the kind assistance of Antiquaries in general is earnestly requested. Any donation to this object will be immediately acknowledged by the author and paid over to the building fund."

The museum was opened the following year.

The excavation was unusual in that all of the soil covering the remains was removed, leaving the whole site visible. (Digging trenches and deducing what lay between was, and still is, the usual method employed.)

The buildings were found to be a bath complex which extended beyond the area uncovered. They had been rebuilt or altered on at least two occasions. The site is of course just outside the fortification walls; near the main gate, on a raised area of ground overlooking the River. (The baths within the fortifications were not discovered until 1964 and the exploration of these was not complete until 1981.)

The structure had been burnt down after the period of occupation, but not before it had fallen into decay. Some of the walls still retained the original plaster. When first uncovered the plaster was 'very perfect' and retained its original colour - red in the centre with a green border.

Three pillar bases can be seen in both engravings above. These were later moved to decorate the path that spirals up the mound, and can be seen in the photographs of the interior of the Mynde.

A large stone, with a sculpted head of Medusa entwined with snakes, was found in the same area. This, it is thought, was part of a basin used by bathers to splash themselves down with cold water.
A drain cover, approximately six feet (2m) in diameter, was found . This is now exhibited in the Roman Baths Museum.
The building was of course heated with hypocausts and flues.
This room had a seat formed of two steps. The walls were faced with carved stones.
Other finds included:




The print of a sandal, set with nails, on one of the large square tiles of the Augustan Legion. It is not uncommon to find portions of these prints, but this near complete impression gives us a link with the past - to the time when the tile was set out to dry.