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Piecing together Newbury's Roman past

New book launched by local historian

Trish Lee

Charlotte Booth

trish.lee@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886663

Piecing together Newbury's Roman  past

Museum curator Ruth Howard, David Peacock and mayor Margo Payne

A new book on the history of the Newbury Roman Cemetery was launched last Thursday at West Berkshire Museum.

Local history expert David Peacock has collated information about the cemetery that was uncovered in 1856 on the site of what is now Sainsbury’s supermarket, south of the Kings Road. It was uncovered in the goods yard of
the Great Western Railway north of the railway line by workmen who were digging for gravel.

No excavations were carried out at the time of the discovery and only a few of the details were recorded in articles and local newspapers. Based on these records, as many as 100 bodies were buried there, as well as a number of cremations. It is thought the burial can be dated to the third or fourth century and the cremations a little earlier.

At the launch, Newbury mayor Margo Payne said: “I am very supportive of David Peacock – what he doesn’t know about Newbury isn’t worth knowing. I didn’t know the cemetery was here. It just shows really how much history there is in Newbury.”

A number of items of pottery and glass vessels was found in the cemetery and Dr Peacock has managed to trace the potter’s marks on the Samian-ware [a fine earthenware pottery, reddish-brown or black in colour] to Les Martes-de-Veyrem near Lezoux in central Gaul.

He said: “It is quite clear that the finds which were saved at the time in the 1850s were a small part of what was found.

“The museum has three Samian ware bowls, but records show there were at least seven, so at least four of these have gone missing. Some may have gone into private hands in the area."

Dr Peacock said he would welcome any information about their whereabouts.

“If you see a small red bowl that someone is using for their cornflakes, I’d like you to let me know.”

West Berkshire Museum curator Ruth Howard added: “I think it is fantastic that David has pulled all these disparate pieces of information into one place, and it opens up a lot of new questions to be answered.”

Dr Peacock added: “This is an important Roman cemetery and it is fascinating for people who are interested in the history of Newbury.”

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