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Roman East Meon (46 – 450 AD)

Roman East Meon (46 – 450 AD)

From “Roman Farming in East Meon Hundred’ By Betty Wesley

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At the time of the Roman invasion and conquest in AD43, Britain was under the control of local Iron Age tribes, many of whom already had trade arrangements with the Roman Empire. The Attrebates were the ruling tribe in this area; they seem to have submitted to the Romans without any significant struggle. The arrival of the Roman army, with thousands of men who required feeding, stimulated the sale of agricultural products; it also introduced systematic administration and taxation and a social structure in which land ownership provided status and power. Local tribes were divided into civitates, each governed by a council; East Meon’s civitas was probably Venta Belgarum (Winchester) which was also a market town. It took no more than a day to travel to Venta, following an ancient track (now the A272), so trade with the civitas was possible. The civitas was funded by land tax and poll tax; Britons who were willing to accept Roman control and pay their dues could achieve wealth and status.

 For two centuries, massive public spending and trade with the Continent created wealth, though it is hard to say how much of this wealth was enjoyed by the indigenous population; the majority of Britannia’s rural settlements remained un-Roman`. Roman settlements around East Meon were located on the greensand bench of high ground, on the junction between the Wealden Clays and the Downland. There is evidence of dwellings at sites at Peak Farm, Old Down Farm, Stroud Villa and Ridgehanger.

 The Roman Villa at Stroud was excavated in 1907 and is currently being re-excavated by Liss Archaeology. Extensive crop marks and field systems north east of Peak Farm indicate this may have been a large farming centre in Roman times. Excavations carried out in 1976 showed this to be part of a large Roman settlement. Pottery finds and grave goods at Old Down Farm date the site from the late Iron Age to the 2nd century. Quantities of roof tiles and box tiles suggest there was a large building in the vicinity; nearby cropmarks and field systems provide evidence that this was also a farm settlement. A series of banks and ditches at Ridgehanger suggest the site was defensive in nature and not a farm

Roman sites on the high ground above East Meon

Roman sites on the high ground above East Meon