Excavations in progress at Cold Knap. Porthkerry Bay and Bristol Channel beyond.
Cold Knap A possible Roman naval base has been discovered in South Wales. This lies in a spectacular position right by the waterfront at Glan-y- Mor, Cold Knap, Barry, a mile west of the well-known bathing establish ment of Messrs. Butlins on Barry Island. Here a large rectangular building has been discovered with numerous rooms set out around an internal courtyard: it is described in detail below by the excavator, Gareth Dowdell, the Director of the Glamorgan/Gwent Archaeological Trust.
military. However, no defences has so far been discovered, though they may lie further away. However, the architecture does not appear to fit into any normal military category. At one time it was suggested that it might be a burgus, one of the late Roman defensive stations well known in the Eastern Empire, but, the most recent work on the finds suggests that though most of the finds are late, those from the foundation deposits are early and may even date to the end of the 1st century.
Interpretation, however, is enigmatic. On the one hand it does not seem to be domestic, for it is very well built and there is very little occupation debris. This would therefore imply that it was an official building and presumably military— or at least constructed by the
The strongest argument, however, depends upon its position. It is magnificently situated—it was threatened by the construction of luxury seaside villas—with superb views in both directions, while on a clear day you can see right across to Devon on the far side. Moreover,
adjacent to it was a swampy inlet, today a boating lake, which could have made a suitable harbour; the tide at Barry has a very high rise, reputed to be the second biggest in the world. It was certainly in a far superior position to Cardiff which is usually considered to be the base of the Roman fleet in Wales but which is too far inland and is badly situated for a look-out station. Against this, however, no CL. BR. tiles of the Classis Britannica (the British fleet) have been discovered which mark the presence of the British fleet in Kent and Sussex, nor are there any defences.
The site therefore remains enigmatic. However, the presence of further buildings in the area is hinted at by the discovery of chance finds and it is possible that further excavations will solve the enigma. In the meantime, the site which was threatened with destruction has been jointly purchased by the local authorities and the Ancient Monuments Branch (Welsh Office) and work has started on laying the site out as an ancient monument.