Extreme tidal conditions were predicted for the 21st and 22nd March, so Dick, Gill, Simon and Barbara waited patiently at Castleford looking for any indications of the foundations of the Roman Bridge that is widely accepted to have crossed at this point. Back in 2004 there was an ‘Extreme Archaeology’ investigation recorded at this location when some trenches were opened to expose the foundations (agger) of the Roman Road, and samples were taken from some wooden stakes visible on the Gloucestershire side for Dendro analysis. Apart from recollections of this programme only a few photographs taken by Keith Underwood have been traced, and a verbal report on the dendro analysis disappointingly came back as inconclusive.
We are particularly interested in this location as the clearly visible line of the Roman Road (a linear feature visible running down the field) crosses what Keith Ray believes to be the Dyke at the bottom of the field along the line of the modern hedge. The relative relationship of the Dyke and Roman Road would be most informative in terms of the possible continued use of the crossing at the time of Offa, as well as having the potential of yielding some dating information for both.
There were no indications of where the trenches were put in, nor unfortunately any sign of the wooden stakes. However on the Monmouthshire side of the river there were some clear indications of a possible bridge pier foundation. Shortly downstream there were also the remains of a wooden structure. This was probably a coffer dam to do with the excavations conducted by Dr Orville Owen in 1910, who was searching for the original manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays, which he believed had been written by Francis Bacon. Yes. During these excavations he uncovered what appeared to be the foundations of a bridge pier, and this is what we thought we saw on that afternoon. There are drawings/ plans from these excavations in Chepstow Museum, and although quite detailed do not clearly indicate the geographical location. Dick has explored the Monmouthshire bank at this point, and it seems highly possible that there was a road above this.
Perhaps in 2004 the timbers had been exposed by then current conditions in the river, but have subsequently been covered again. What we saw on the other bank was a lot of stone, and a pool on the river in an elongated oval form. The currents suggested obstructions beneath the surface and at least one possible timber post was just visible. There was also a smaller wooden stake visible in the mud further up the bank.
Perhaps a more extreme tide in dryer conditions might reveal more.”