NGRef: SP5007
OSMap: LR164
Type: Minor Settlement, Pottery
Possible Road: WNW (14) to Asthall (Oxfordshire)
Possible Road: E (3) to Shotover (Oxfordshire)
Probable Road: SSW (8.5) to Frilford (Oxfordshire)

The Oxford Romano-British Potteries

The Romano-British settlement at North Oxford lay just to the north of the confluence of the Cherwell with the River Thames, and was protected on the east by the former stream and to the west by the latter.

By the late-third century Oxford was the centre of a thriving pottery trade, specializing in 'colour-coated' wares, and by the fourth-century these potteries were responsible for a considerable proportion of the British market. It has been suggested that these fine wares were distributed over a large area, particularly to the south, due mainly to its being transported along the Cherwell and other tributaries of the Thames. The River Cherwell formed the boundary between two British iron-age tribes, the Dobunni in the west and the Catuvellauni to the east, and it is very likely that some sort of treaty existed between these two tribes in pre-Roman times (q.v. Cassius Dio, LX.xx.2).

There are several Romano-British potteries in the immediate area of Oxford; to the south at Foxcombe Hill (SP4901), also to the south-east at Littlemore (SP5403) and in the grounds of Churchill Hospital at Headington (SP5405).

Roman Cemeteries in the Area

In 1978 an inhumation cemetery was discovered at Stanton Harcourt (SP4105) about 5½ miles to the west of the North Oxford settlement. All of the excavated graves were aligned north-south and many had been decapitated, which probably indicates that the cemetery itself was partly Pagan and perhaps dates to the latter part of the Romano-British era. In Roman society burials were not allowed to be performed within the boundaries of any civil settlement and as a consequence were almost invariably placed along either side of the main roads outside the settlement's perimeter.

There is another late-period Romano-British cemetery at Curbridge (SP3208) which lies further west, beyond the one at Stanton Harcourt. The presence of these burial grounds is extremely interesting and very likely means that a minor Roman road led in this direction towards the minor settlement at Asthall. It is also possible that an otherwise unknown Romano-British settlement awaits discovery in the area between Curbridge and Stanton Harcourt.

Latin Inscriptions in Oxfordshire

No inscribed Roman stones are recorded in the R.I.B. for the North Oxford Roman settlement, however, a Roman bronze letter was recovered in 1949 on the site of a Romano-British hut group at Kidlington (SP4913) about 5 miles to the north on the opposite side of the River Cherwell from the Islip villa, found together with fourteen brooches; the finds are now held at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The bronze letter V (RIB 242). It is possible (although, admittedly, not very likely) that the letter comes from some sort of milestone or distance indicator, particularly since the North Oxford settlement lies roughly five miles to the south. On this basis, a possible expansion and translation of part of the text could be: V (quinque) [mille passuum] or "Five thousand paces [from Oxford]".

Despite the numerous settlements, villas, potteries and other substantial Roman remains in Oxfordshire, very few Latin inscriptions have been discovered. Aside from the Kidlingdon bronze there are inscribed stones at Dorchester on Thames, Wood Eaton and Wilcote.

Nearby Temples and Villa Estates

There is a temple at Woodeaton (SP5312) with a nearby villa at Islip (SP5313) which both lie along the line of the suspected road northwards to Alchester. The probable road to the south-south-west connected the Oxford potteries with the Romano-British Villa at Frilford (SU4297) and its nearby temple (SU4396). There is another villa roughly 6½ miles to the east at Wheatley (SP6004) with substantial Roman buildings nearby at Cuddesdon (SP6003). Other substantial buildings have been identified to the north-east of the Oxford settlement at Headington (SP5408), Beckley (SP5611) and Woodperry (SP5710).

See: Historical Map and Guide - Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
Roman Britain by Peter Salway (Oxford 1981) pp.644-649;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).

This page is dedicated to Georgina Louise Clare and her father Mark - Salvete Comites!

Link to maps of the area from: StreetMap Old-Maps MultiMap
Page Citation: Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: NORTH OXFORD"