Newbury’s Roman Cemetery

Members joined Dr David Peacock on 26 Oct 2018 to hear about Newbury’s Roman Cemetery.

The cemetery, which is roughly where Sainsbury now stands, was first discovered in the 1850s. The site was then in the parish of Greenham, although a number of boundary changes have taken place since then. The find appeared in the Newbury journal, a local newspaper of the day, on 14th February 1856 having been discovered just two days before whilst workers were digging for gravel. Initially thoughts were that the site was connected with the English Civil War with a small number of skeletons being unearthed. By 1st March it was claimed that 100 skeletons had been discovered along with a number of cremations. It was in the Reading Mercury of 1st March 1856 that the first mention of this being Roman was highlighted.

This was not like a modern excavation but rather workers digging for gravel who just happen to be uncovering bones, pottery and other items. Many of the finds made their way into the hands of collectors.

It is not known what happened to the bones, however the work at the site saw the ground level drop by several feet thus removing all trace of any archaeology. David explained the history of the site and how many of the finds are now available to view at West Berkshire Museum along with a much better understanding of their history. Much of the potter can now be traced back to their makers with may ending up in the Ashmolean museum and a connection to Newbury not being recognised until recently. Most of the pottery was dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries.