Plan of the site of Bannaventa
|Region||East of England|
|Location||Astride Watling Street (A5) 1 mile northeast of the village of Norton|
Bannaventa was a Romano British Fortified Town which was situated on the Roman road of Watling Street, which today is known as the A5 trunk road. Bannaventa is 1 mile (1.6 km) northeast of the village of Norton in the English county of Northamptonshire. The Ordnance Survey grid reference for the centre of the town is SP612645.
Iter II (Watling Street)
The road where Bannaventa was located is thought to be the first road constructed by the Romans in Britain. It begins in Portus Ritupis (now Richborough) in the county of Kent and runs in a north westerly direction linking many Roman settlements and towns along its route. At Viroconium (now Wroxeter in Shropshire), the road branched with one route going to Deva Victrix (now Chester) and the other into Wales. Bannaventa was a small fortified town on this road and was 10.9 miles north west of the Roman town of Lactodorum (now Towcester).17.3 miles to the north west was the Roman settlement of Venonis (now Wigston Parva) where Watling street is intersected by the Fosse Way.
The meaning of the name Bannaventa is from “The Market on the spur of the Land”. mention of the settlement can be found in Emperor Antoninus Pius’s Itinerarium, Iter Britanniarum (The Road Routes of Antoninus Augustus). The extracts are as follows:
- Iter 2, Venone XII, Benaventa XVII, Lactodorum XII.
- Iter 6, Lactodorum XVI, Isannavaria XII, Tripontium XII.
- Iter 8, Venone XII, Benaventa XVIII, Magiovinter XXVIII.
The translation of these place names are as follows although Isannavantia is assumed to be Bannaventa.
- Venone = High Cross, Wigston Parva, Leicestershire
- Isannavantia = Bannaventa
- Tripontium = Cave's Inn, Warwickshire
- Magiovinter = Dropshort, Buckinghamshire
Bannaventa was a posting station for Roman travelers and would have operated along the lines of the Coaching towns of a later period along Watling street. The town would have been a vital part of the road infrastructure of Roman Britain. The Fortified town would provide a safe, warm resting place where provisions for the journey could be purchased and horses and other livestock could be safely stabled overnight. The town would also provide some protection for the wider population in the vicinity in times of danger. In close proximity of the town there are several other Roman sites which are connected with Bannaventa. These include the remains of a villa on the summit of near-by Borough Hill, another smaller settlement between Thrupp lodge and Thrupp Grounds (SP 599651) and various other small homesteads have been located at grid references SP613638, SP608649 and another Roman villa at SP605649.
It was not until the early 18th century that the site of Bannaventa was positively identified. Previously, sites at near-by Weedon Bec, Daventry-Borough Hill and even Northampton had been suggested. There have been many archaeological finds across the site including the discovery of a skeleton and numerous cremations in a Roman burial ground a little south of the boundary of the fortifications. Other discoveries include Constantinian coins, some foundations, stonework, and pottery; most were found in the early 18th century and they led to the definitive location of the town. More finds in the 20th century have been discovered and are listed below:
- A number of rubbish pits dating from the 1st and 2nd century
- In 1900, Roman coins of Victorinus and Samian ware, remnants of buildings including wall plaster, rotten wood, roof slates, and a cobbled floor.
- In 1922 roman coins including a Sestertius of Hadrian.
- In 1957 a Large Nene Valley beaker, large painted pot, part of a glass bowl. Fragments of a black Samian pot plus many other artifacts.
In 1970 the site was photographed from the air. This revealed the position of Roman Watling Street as it bisected the town, and the outline of the town lying to the west of the A5. The settlement was enclosed by an irregular quadrilateral shape with broad rounded corners, bounded by a series of three sets of banks and ditches. The enclosed area covered some 13.5 acres (55,000 m²). Inside the enclosure evidence has been found of the wooden buildings which made up most of the town. Nothing obviously Roman now remains above ground.
Saint Patrick connection
It is possible that Bannaventa was the birthplace of Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. In his Confessio he said that he had been born in a settlement called Banavem Taburniae which could possibly be an alternative name for Bannaventa. He tells us that "... about sixteen years of age (around 405 AD) ... I was taken into captivity in Ireland", where he was held as a slave. Watling Street ran ultimately to North Wales (about 160 km to Chester, the nearest point of navigation on the Irish Sea), which offers easy passage to Ireland. After six years of slavery Saint Patrick escaped to Gaul (now France) where he became a monk, later returning to Ireland as a missionary. His Confessio begins:
I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people...—Saint Patrick, Confessio
-  Description and name given. roman-britain.org
- ’OS’ Explorer Map, Rugby & Daventry 222, ISBN 978-0-319-23734-2
- ’ Early Daventry’ by A E Brown, ISBN 0-901507-44-X
- Borough Hill (Daventry) and its History by William Edgar, Page 53 ASIN: B001075ZNY
- Borough Hill (Daventry) and its History by William Edgar, Page 39 ASIN: B001075ZNY
- An Inventory of Archaeological Sites in North West Northamptonshire, Page 154, Fig 118. ISBN 0-11-700900-8
- An Inventory of Archaeological Sites in North West Northamptonshire, Page 153, Fig 116. ISBN 0-11-700900-8
- Borough Hill (Daventry) and its History by William Edgar, Page 54, Discussion on the Location. ASIN: B001075ZNY
- An Inventory of Archaeological Sites in North West Northamptonshire, Page 150 . ISBN 0-11-700900-8
- 1970 Air Photographs taken by J.K.S. St Joseph, Cambridge University Air Photographs
- Borough Hill (Daventry) and its History by William Edgar, Page 57, Quotes opinion of Professor Haverfield, Victoria County History ASIN: B001075ZNY
- Tripontium, by Jack Lucas FSA (1997) ISBN 0-9531265-0-1
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bannaventa.|
- Roman-Britain.org - info about Bannaventa