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Plan of the site of Bannaventa
Plan of the site of Bannaventa
Etymology: Celtic: hillfield
Bannaventa is located in Northamptonshire
Position in the county, which now has two not seven smaller divisions.
Coordinates: 52°16′31″N 1°06′08″W / 52.2753°N 1.1022°W / 52.2753; -1.1022Coordinates: 52°16′31″N 1°06′08″W / 52.2753°N 1.1022°W / 52.2753; -1.1022
DistrictWest Northamptonshire
Civil ParishesNorton & Whilton[1][2]
120 m (390 ft)
The focal Ordnance Survey grid reference is SP612645.[3]

Bannaventa or Benaventa was a Romano-British fortified town[4] which was on the Roman road later called Watling Street, which today is here, as in most places, the A5 road. Bannaventa straddles the boundaries of Norton and Whilton, Northamptonshire, England, villages highly clustered 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) and double that away, respectively.

Iter II (Watling Street)[edit]

The road on which Bannaventa lies is thought to be the first built by the Romans in Britain. It begins in Portus Ritupis (Richborough in Kent) and runs in successive north westerly directions – via many Roman towns.[n 1]

Bannaventa was a small fortified town on this road 10.9 miles (17.5 km) north-northwest of the Roman town of Lactodorum (now Towcester). The other way, by 17.3 miles (27.8 km), was the Roman settlement of Venonis (Wigston Parva), a crossroads town – of this street which there for several miles marks the Leicestershire-Warwickshire boundary – with Fosse Way (road from Lincoln to Britain's south west).


Bannaventa is derived from Brittonic *bannā "peak, hill" (as in Modern Welsh ban, "top, tip, point, summit, crest, peak, beacon, height, pinnacle, turret, hill, mountain, bare hill")[5] and *wentā, of obscure origin, but perhaps "place of sacrifice"[6][7] or simply "place, field" (as in Welsh cadwent "battlefield")[8][9]

Brief mention of the settlement is thrice found in Emperor Antoninus Pius’s Itinerarium, Iter Britanniarum (The Road Routes of Antoninus Augustus):[10]

  • Iter 2, Venone XII, Benaventa XVII, Lactodorum XII.
  • Iter 6, Lactodorum XVI, Isannavantia XII, Tripontium XII.
  • Iter 8, Venone XII, Benaventa XVIII, Magiovinter XXVIII.

The sites of these names are as follows:

This emperor died in 161 CE.


A coin discovered at the site

Bannaventa was a staging post for Romano-Celtic travellers 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 bought and horses and other livestock could be safely stabled overnight. The town would also provide some protection for the wider local allies in times of danger. Close to the town are other Roman sites, connected in time. These include the remains of a villa on the summit of nearby Borough Hill,[11] another smaller settlement between Thrupp Lodge and Thrupp Grounds[n 2][12] and two other small homesteads,[n 3] and a more western Roman villa[n 4].[13]


It was not until the early 18th century that the site of Bannaventa was positively identified. Previously, sites at nearby Weedon Bec, Daventry's Borough Hill and even Northampton had been suggested.[14] 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.[15] More finds in the 20th century have been discovered and are listed below:

View south from the northwest corner of Bannaventa
  • 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 the street which was more true north-south as it bisected the town, and the outline of the town mostly to the west of the A5.[16] The settlement was enclosed by an imperfect square (distended to the south-east) with broad rounded corners, bounded by a series of three sets of banks and ditches. The enclosed town measured 13.5 acres (5.5 ha). In the enclosure lies evidence of the wooden buildings which made up most of the town.

Current status[edit]

Nothing obviously Roman now remains above ground and has no public access, and is privately owned and is a field. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.[17]

Similarity to name of Saint Patrick's birthplace[edit]

Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, tells us in his Confession that he had been born in a settlement called Bannavem Taburniae.[18] The location is unknown, but could be a variant of Bannaventa. This led at least one historian of this county to opine that Patrick was born at Bannaventa.[19]

However an early Life of Patrick describes his birthplace as "near the western sea",[19] easing the rest of Patrick's confession that he was carried into slavery in Ireland by Irish raiders. Likewise, per co-authors of a scholarly national typography of 1979, the suffix "Taburniae" is likely to distinguish it from Bannaventa.[20]

Footnotes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Notably at Viroconium (now Wroxeter in Shropshire), it bifurcated (split in two): one limb went to Deva Victrix (now Chester) and the other towards Aberystwyth with a link to Caerleon.
  2. ^ at grid reference SP 599651
  3. ^ SP613638, SP608649
  4. ^ at SP605649


  1. ^ Map of Civil Parish as at late 20th century and at 19th century inception Univ. of Portsmouth & Others: Vision of Britain
  2. ^ Map of Civil Parish as at late 20th century and at 19th century inception Univ. of Portsmouth & Others: Vision of Britain
  3. ^ 'OS' Explorer Map, Rugby & Daventry 222, ISBN 978-0-319-23734-2
  4. ^ "Bannaventa". Archived from the original on 21 October 2004. Retrieved 25 October 2004. Description and name given.
  5. ^ Delamarre, Xavier Noms de lieux celtiques de l'Europe ancienne (−500 / +500), Errance Paris, 2012, p. 70-71.
  6. ^ Delamarre, Xavier, Noms de lieux celtiques de l'Europe ancienne (−500 / +500), Errance Paris, 2012, p. 71; p. 263.
  7. ^ Xavier Delamarre, "Notes d'onomastique vieille-celtique", Keltische Forschungen 5, 2010–2012, pp. 99–138.
  8. ^ Zair, Nicholas, The Reflexes of the Proto-Indo-European Laryngeals in Celtic, Brill, 2012, p. 192, 199.
  9. ^ Schumacher, Stefan, Die keltischen Primärverben: ein vergleichendes, etymologisches und morphologisches Lexikon, Innsbrucker Beiträge zür Sprachwissenschaft, 2004, p. 368.
  10. ^ Borough Hill (Daventry) and its History', William Edgar, Page 53 ASIN: B001075ZNY
  11. ^ Borough Hill (Daventry) and its History, William Edgar, page 39 ASIN: B001075ZNY
  12. ^ An Inventory of Archaeological Sites in North West Northamptonshire, Page 154, Fig 118. ISBN 0-11-700900-8
  13. ^ An Inventory of Archaeological Sites in North West Northamptonshire, Page 153, Fig 116. ISBN 0-11-700900-8
  14. ^ Borough Hill (Daventry) and its History, William Edgar, page 54: Discussion on the Location. ASIN: B001075ZNY
  15. ^ An Inventory of Archaeological Sites in North West Northamptonshire, Page 150 . ISBN 0-11-700900-8
  16. ^ 1970 Air Photographs taken by J.K.S. St Joseph, Cambridge University Air Photographs
  17. ^ Historic England. "Site of Bannaventa (1003879)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  18. ^ Confessio of St Patrick.
  19. ^ a b Borough Hill (Daventry) and its History by William Edgar, page 57
  20. ^ A. L. F. Rivet and Colin Smith, The Place-Names of Roman Britain (1979), 511–512

External links[edit]

Heritage at Risk Register: Bannaventa