Romans in Kings Norton
A dig near Longdales Road has provided a glimpse into Birmingham's Roman countryside. Archaeologists discovered a square farmyard surrounded by three ditches to control livestock. It contained cobbled surfaces and a circular timber building. Next to the farmyard there were more timber buildings, including a large barn, ditches and pebble surfaces. Many pieces of pottery, thrown onto the ditches and trampled into the pebble surfaces, showed that people had been living on the site between the second and fourth centuries.
Most of the pottery had been made in the West Midlands, including bowls, tankards and mixing bowls, but there were just a few pieces of pots made further afield like glossy red vessels from Gaul and olive oil jars from the Mediterranean.
The site is near the Roman road called Icknield Street, which ran from Alcester to Birmingham Roman fort in Edgbaston. The farm would have been built when the Roman fort at Edgbaston was out of use because conditions had become more peaceful. The farm is larger and better preserved than we expected.
The purpose of the site is still a bit of a mystery. The ditches would have kept livestock in and grain could have been stored in the barn, but the ditched farmyard seems too large and elaborate for an ordinary farm. It may have been a collecting and storage depot for animals and crops from surrounding farms, before they were sent along the road to the Roman town at Alcester.
A geophysical survey beyond the area of the excavation showed just how large the site was. This involved measuring the resistance of the ground to an electric current and measuring the soil magnetism to find out what was below the surface. It revealed the lines of filled in ditches forming animal enclosures and field boundaries, and a road leading from Icknield Street.
Subsequent excavation of this area revealed parallel roads and ditches running at right angles to Icknield Street, dividing the land into rectangular plots. Hedgerows still visible near the excavation site are on the same alignment as these roads and ditches and are probably on the line of Roman boundaries- so you can still see a Roman landscape in this part of Kings Norton! The excavation also found shallow ditches which surrounded circular timber houses, and contained a lot of pottery dating between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD. A detailed report has been published.
Another Roman site in Kings Norton has recently been discovered less than a mile away near Parsons Hill.
The archaeological work was required because the development site is close to the line of the Roman Ryknild Street and near to a site where remains of Roman timber buildings and pebble surfaces were excavated in the 1950s, before housing development took place.Excavation revealed a large ditch containing Roman pottery dating to the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD, including pieces of a tankard made in the Severn Valley area.
The ditch probably formed one side of a land boundary like those found at the dig near Longdales Road also near the Ryknild Street and only about a kilometre away.
Roman Sites in Birmingham
These discoveries demonstrate the density of Roman sites in Birmingham and show that more are likely to be found
Last Updated : 13th December 2012