Ryder Cup

Celtic Manor

Celtic Manor Golf Resort Archaeology


Celtic Manor Area 2b & 3

Main features:

Bulmore pottery Kiln (Area 2b)

Cist burial (Area 3)

Drying Kiln & workshop (Area 3)

Bulmore Pottery Kiln (2005)

ST 3599 9130 (Montgomerie Course)

In 2005, a pottery kiln and an associated semicircular ditch, probably also serving as a levigation channel, was discovered on the hillside (52m OD) to the south and directly above the settlement of Great Bulmore. This was the second kiln to be discovered near Bulmore, employed in the production of Roman fine wares, but it is was of markedly different construction to the first kiln found in 1997, located 800m to the east (ST 3680 9140).

The kiln chamber, sub-circular in shape, measured around 1.6m east/west by 1.3m north/south and the rectangular stone-built flue with an arched roof, measured 0.9m long by 0.6m high with an internal fire-tunnel width of about 0.4m; the flue was aligned almost due north. The kiln was cut into the hillside to a horizontal level, which left a rock-cut passage 3m in length and 1.5m wide leading to the flue entrance; the beginning of this passage also coincided with the arc of the semi-circular levigation channel/ditch. Levigation is a process where finer clay is separated from coarser material by forming a suspension of the fine material in a liquid before using the clay for making pots. The basic structure of the kiln comprised a clay-bonded stone superstructure overlying two perforated fired-clay oven floors, one laid directly over the other. Both floors were supported by a central freestanding stone pedestal and also by combined clay and stone corbels that surrounded the perimeter of the circular chamber.

Drying Kiln ST 3637 9144

A Roman drying kiln and associated stone structure, possibly a storage area, was located toward the eastern extent of the new development on what is now the Montgomerie Course and close to greens 16 and 17 of the 2010 Ryder Cup course. The sunken, stone-built kiln structure was bottle-shaped and measured around 4m in length, the flue accounting for half the total length. The flue width tapered from 0.7m wide at the entrance to 0.5m wide at the neck of the chamber and was aligned on 191 degrees (national grid bearing). The sidewalls of the chamber formed right angles with the rear wall but at about half way along their length curved inward to join the neck of the flue. The internal walls of the chamber had outward sloping sides and a vertical depth of around 0.45m from top of stonework to its base; the maximum width of the base of the chamber at its midpoint was 1.4m. Immediately to the east of the kiln were the remains of three almost parallel low walls up to 4.5m in length and 2.7m wide overall. It is thought that they may have represented the foundations of a storage building.

There is much debate concerning the function and purpose of these structures. In the recent past they were known as ‘corn dryers’, and that terminology should be restricted to structures positively identified for that specific purpose, where grain was artificially dried to facilitate threshing and secondly, to ensure the grain was hard enough to be ground effectively for food production, or in addition to food, there is also the possibility that these structures served as malting kilns for making ale, whereby the germinated grain was kiln dried to halt germination; halting the germination process at the right time is essential in the production of ale. However, the above explanations require proof of the presence of grain, and in its absence the function of these structures remains in doubt.

There are other plant and animal products that can be treated in order to preserve them and an alternative interpretation for the structures is that they were for smoking or ‘curing’ fish or meat where no intense source of heat was required.

Burials ST 3631 9158

An area containing cremation burials and paving was discovered around 350m to the east of the centre of the settlement of Great Bulmore at the base of the hillslope, near to the 18th hole of the 2010 Ryder Cup course. The cremations were sited adjacent and close to the line of the Roman road between Usk and Caerleon and it is probable that they respect the road. To date this represents the easternmost extent of cremation burials associated with the Roman settlement.

A stone-lined cist burial (ST 36068 91471) was discovered at around 0.8m below ground level. The cist measured 1.47m in length and was constructed of six sandstone slabs and orientated east/west (266 degrees national grid bearing). No human remains survived within the chamber but the distribution of nails found within the cist suggested that the body was contained in a wooden coffin. This inhumation was similar to graves previously revealed during excavation to the west of the site.