A vast Roman fortress was established at Usk in the 50s AD. Covering an area of 19.5ha, it stretched from the Priory to beyond the prison. This was the base for a legion of 5,000 at a time when the Usk river probably marked the edge of the Roman Empire.
Twenty years later both legion and frontier had moved on, and a much smaller base, of about 1.0ha, was built within the wreck of the great fortress.
In the following century a civil settlement was established. This was focussed on the fortress' central crossroads (under the present courthouse) and its properties were laid out along the old military streets. The settlement, which lasted till the end of Roman rule, may have been founded for military veterans.
Remains of the site, first recognised as the Antonine Itinerary's Burrium in the seventeenth century, were first noted in the 1840s during the building of Usk Prison. In the 1870s the first formal excavations were undertaken and further, more extensive excavations since 1968 have added much detail to the nature and phasing of the fort and settlement.
Excavation Reports: Manning 'Usk Fortress Excavations, 1968-71' (1981)
'Usk Fortress Excavations, 1972-74' (1989)
- there are also publications dealing with finds and with post-Roman features
Metcalf & Evans in Britannia 20 (1989), 23-67
Marvell in 'Conquest, Co-existence & Change' (Trivium 25 1991), 19-26
Marvell in Britannia 27 (1996), 51-110
Manning in the Monmouth Antiquary 13 (1997), 37-42
Marvell & Maynard in Britannia 29 (1998), 247-67
Marvell & Webster in Archaeology in Wales 38 (1998), 64-7
Other sources: Boon in the Monmouth Antiquary 1.2 (1962), 28-33
Jarrett 'The Roman Frontier in Wales', 2nd edition (1969), 116-8
John Wiles, RCAHMW, 16 May 2007