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More ancient roads discovered under Monmouth

Excavations for the replacement of gas mains by Amec have been continuing for some weeks and have now reached the Monk Street/Dixton Road traffic lights. 

The work is being monitored by members of Monmouth Archaeology (the professional wing of Monmouth Archaeological Society) who have been recording a series of ancient roads as well as features associated with the town's northern medieval defences. 

The most interesting revelations have been the sequence of medieval and later road surfaces which lie over a stone cobbled road at one metre below the modern road surface and which may be Roman – possibly part of the Roman town of ‘Blestium’ or of the middle 1st century Roman Fort. 

The lowest road was superseded by another which was composed of bloomery iron slag. 

This road must be medieval or earlier because by the 1600s it was discovered that there was a considerable amount of iron remaining in the slag and that it could be re-smelted in a blast furnace such as one at Tintern. 

Previously the council had been using the huge drifts of iron slag which were lying around the town from the Roman and medieval bloomeries – especially on the banks of the Wye and at Overmonnow – for metalling the roads. 

Now they realised that the slag was valuable and cinder ‘mining’ became a major feature of town life, with large open-cast mines appearing in several areas while at Overmonnow the Cinder ‘Hill’ was completely removed. 

The roads above the one made of iron slag are all quite different, being made of broken stone, pebbles and rubble, up to the modern tarmacadam surfaces. 

There was no east-west road at the traffic lights until Priory Street and the New Dixton Road was built in the 19th century (to relieve traffic in Church Street which until then was part of the main road to west Wales). 

Other interesting remains recorded are areas of stonework which are associated with, or are part of, the Monks’ Gate which was built in around AD1300. 

This may have been a bigger construction than was previously realised and was set further away from a large 11th or 12th century defensive ditch which crosses the road on route from the River Monnow to the River Wye, cutting off the peninsula on the north and the east. 

Source: Monmouthshire Beacon [February 29, 2012]

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