NGRef: SH705001
OSMap: LR135
Type: Minor Settlement, Fort

Possible road: NNE (13) to Brithdir (Gwynedd)
SSW (6) to Erglodd (Powys)

The Roman Auxiliary Fort at Cefn-caer Farm

SH705001 c.550 x 425 ft
(c.168 x 130 m)
c.5.36 acres
(c.2.17 ha)

The Roman fort near Pennal in Gwynedd is situated along the crest of the ridge running north-east from Cefn-caer Farm. The fort measures approximately 550 feet from north-east to south-west, by about 425 feet transversely (c.168 x 130 m), and therefore covers an area of around 5 and one-third acres (c.2.17 ha). The fort is protected by two ditches on the south-west side and around the southern corner-angle, possibly by three ditches on the south-east and north-east sides. Aerial photography has revealed the line of the stone wall of the fort on the NE, SE and SW sides, also the foundations of a stone building in the centre of the fort, the principia, measuring about 90 feet (c. m) square. Aerial photography has also detected signs of extramural activity on the slopes between the fort's defences and the marshy ground to the south-west (JRS 1953 pp.86/7, 1977 pp.151/2).

The foundation date of the Pennal Roman fort is debateable. It is possible that the Dyfi valley was occupied during the tenure of governor Quintus Veranius c.A.D.57/58, and the discovery of a couple of central-Gaulish lead-glazed bottles within a destruction layer suggest that occupation possibly continued until the early-70's (Webster p.114).

The Romano-British Settlement

A magnetometry survey was conducted in 2000 using a fluxgate gradiometer which revealed details of the fort and its defences "set in a wider landscape containing both military and civilian features" (Britannia 2001). The survey confirmed the line of the road running eastwards from the fort which was previously known only from cropmarks in aerial photographs and also showed ribbon development to either side of both roads leading from the main gates of the fort extending for over 220 yards (200m) beyond the defences. Various features were identified in the immediate environs of the fort, including a bath-house, a circular tomb or perhaps a shrine, what appears to be a mansio or imperial posting station, also traces of an adjacent parade-ground. There were signs of extensive development along the lines of both roads which was interpreted by the surveyors as a settlement in the form of vicus, complete with a shrine, bath-house and imperial hostel, also a complex of buildings of "unknown function." All this was learned without so much as lifting a spade. Ah! The wonders of modern archaeology!

Click here for a map of Pennal from

See: Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97;
Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1973-76 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxvii (1977) pp.125-161;
Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993);
Britannia xxxii (2001) pp.313/4;