The Estuary

Roman Rule - AD 50 - 400

The Romans brought great changes across the British Isles, and the estuary was no different. The twentieth legion established itself in AD 49 in Gloucester and Roman Vessels soon plied the river, estuary and Bristol Channel. The first major use of the estuary for trade was underway, with ports springing up on the Avon and Parrot. Smelting of Ire-ore at Woolaston (Gloucestershire) and Oldbury-on-Severn (Avon) used ore shipped form the Forest of Dean. A Roman boat recently found close to the inland margin of the levels at Magor, Gwent, from what was then a tidal creek, suggests the kinds of craft that worked the estuary. The boat, of nailed planks was originally of about 12 metres long.

The Roman period saw the start of the draining of the land around the estuary. Much of the great tidal marshes of Gloucestershire, Avon and Gwent were embanked and drained, starting the process of making today’s’ agricultural landscape. Evidence that the Roman army assisted in the draining is given by an inscribed stone from Goldcliff.

After the Romans left the seawalls were inundated by the tide again, and the sea defences broke down in many places. Marshy conditions returned and tidal slit buried some Roman settlements and field systems.