Ryder Cup

Celtic Manor

Celtic Manor Golf Resort Archaeology


Celtic Manor Area 2a

Main features:

Abernant Kiln & working area


In 1815 a stone building paved with reused Roman tombstones was found at Great Bulmore, when it was thought to be a mausoleum connected with the fortress, like the other burials known from this hillside. In 1975, excavations for a water main uncovered another building, and it became clear that what we had was a settlement along the road to Usk. Further work in the 1980s identified at least fifteen stone buildings as well as burials and some medieval features, and the site was scheduled. The relationship of the settlement at Bulmore to Caerleon fortress and its surrounding civil settlement suggests that it was deliberately sited on the edge of the territory of the Second Augustan Legion, but close enough to the fortress to exploit its economic potential. This type of arrangement with one settlement immediately next to the fortress and a second, completely separate one within 1.5–2.5km but under civil authority, is also known at Chester and in mainland Europe.

Development of the Celtic Manor Resort started in 1991, and GGAT was involved from the start in the archaeology, from advising the resort on the best way to approach the archaeology, to survey and excavation. We worked closely with the designers of the new facilities to ensure that as much as possible of the archaeology could be preserved. Even when a Roman pottery kiln was found during the construction of one of the greens, the course designer was flown in and the hole re-shaped to avoid it. This kiln made the so-called ‘Caerleon ware’ – red earthenware pottery for table use – which had been discovered for decades at the fortress, and its importance was such that Cadw scheduled it. However, it was not only Roman remains that were taken into account in the design – traditional farm buildings and a WWII anti-aircraft battery were also preserved.

Part of the scheduled area at Bulmore had been based on a geophysical survey carried out in 1999. The new Ryder Cup course impinged on that area, and the Trust carried out the excavations that were a condition of Scheduled Monument Consent. Fortunately, some of the scheduled area turned out to be blank, and at other points the course designers were able to make changes to protect areas of Roman remains alongside the Caerleon-Usk Road and a newly-found cremation cemetery.

Whilst we tried to identify as much as possible of the archaeology at the design stage, there was always the possibility that other structures might be discovered during construction. Trust staff therefore carried out a watching brief while earth moving took place for the course and the new clubhouse. As a result construction work was halted in sensitive areas to give us time to excavate features like a second pottery kiln with a probable workshop building and a drying kiln. One particularly interesting discovery was a small square tower-like building found well to the north of any Roman activity we had previously discovered, on the site of the new coach park. It lay alongside a lightly metalled track that must have branched off the Caerleon to Usk road. There was some argument at the Trust as to whether it was military – a watch tower for example – or whether it was mausoleum where someone of importance had been buried. Luckily two small pieces of a stone inscription were found in the debris and Professor Roger Tomlin of Oxford University has been able to make them out as part of a verse referring to ‘unjust fate’, so it seems that the mausoleum idea is the right one.