PRESTATYN ROMAN SITE
Map Reference SJ08SE
Grid Reference SJ06218175
Unitary (Local) Authority Denbighshire
Old County Flintshire
Type of Site BATH HOUSE, SETTLEMENT, VICUS
Broad Class CIVIL
Site Description Excavations in 1934-7 and from 1981 revealed elements of a first to second century Roman settlement that possibly extending into the 3rd century. The most prominent feature is a bathhouse of about 11.7m by 4.5m, but evidence of bronze working was also recovered. Prior occupation of the site was represented by traces of a roundhouse and other circular structures, together with an infant burial, dated to about 30 BC (AW 25 (1985) 29).
A fort at Prestatyn was first proposed in the 1930s, lying to the north of Melyd Avenue near a house called ‘Claremont’, where a ditch dating to c. AD 70-80 was discovered. Investigation of lower-lying ground to the south produced numerous stamped tiles of Legio XX and led to the identification of three masonry buildings, including a bath-house. However, a trench 50m long into the interior of the putative ‘fort’ enclosure revealed no traces of Roman occupation. Excavations in the 1950s by the county historical society under G. Webster and then a Mr Tobias seem to have left no records, while in 1973 building rubble considered to be not later than c. AD 150 was found in the south-east corner of the Meadows Estate c. 30 to 40m south of the bath-house. Webster’s view that the Claremont fort was not authentic was reinforced by geophysical survey in the grounds of Ysgol y Llys in the mid-1980s, and by evaluations in 2001, and again in 2003, none of which provided any Roman features or material.
Excavations in 1980 re-assessed the area of the 1930s excavations, revealing that rather than being an element of a Roman fort on the plateau to the north, the ditch ran south-south-east, forming part of an enclosure around the Melyd Avenue bath-house and industrial complex which was excavated in 1984/5. The bath-house was built in two stages, the initial one by Legio XX c. AD 120, with the later addition of a cold room and plunge bath, fed by a timber aqueduct. Bronze- and iron-smithing, and enamelling was conducted in adjacent, timber-built workshops, operating from c. AD 90/100 to c. AD 160. The other buildings found in the 1930s unquestionably form part of the same complex, now under a housing estate to the west of the bath-house. The current view is that these may signal a vicus-like settlement associated with a harbour installation designed for the shipment of lead and silver from nearby the mines, though its precise nature is unclear.
A second fort c. 250m to the north-west and known as Ffordd Isa was proposed by G. D. B. Jones in 1976, who recorded one outer and two inner ditches, no more than 0.7m deep, fronting a substantial clay rampart. No further evidence has been adduced to confirm this ‘fort’ and the features visible on the aerial photographs that led to the discovery of the site are unconvincing. As a result of assessments in 2003-4 this site was de-scheduled in 2006.
Rectilinear, ditched and ramparted enclosures, centred on SJ05908205 and SJ06208182, are no longer thought to represent military sites (see Nprn275845).
Sources: Newstead 1937 (AC 92.2), 208-32;
1938 (AC 93), 175-91.
Blockley 1989 'Prestatyn 1984-5 ...' BAR British series 210.
J. Wiles, RCAHMW, 2005
R.J. Silvester, CPAT, from The Roman Frontier in Wales, 2010.