Ross District war memorial and the Romans

This article was submitted by UKNIWM volunteer fieldworker Gordon Amand

You may wonder what have Roman remains got to do with war memorials. Well, it would appear that in Prospect Park, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire a chance investigation has led to the discovery of a strange coincidence.

It began in the summer of 2007, when after a period of heavy rainfall (a feature that seems to have characterised that summer), the 18th century wall dividing the church cemetery from Prospect Park collapsed. The park, on slightly higher ground than the cemetery by about 5 feet, overlooks a U bend in the River Wye. It is here that Ross district chose to site their war memorial in 1920, with a commanding view of the river and surrounding countryside.

Excavation of Roman remains found beneath the war memorial

Excavation of Roman remains found beneath the Ross District war memorial

After a discussion between the Church authority and County Council, repair work to the wall commenced in early 2008, but it was not long underway when remains of an ancient occupation were found in the ground layers of the park and it was discovered that the war memorial had been erected directly on top of a Roman settlement. The war memorial, a rough hewn plinth and cross with the names of the district’s fallen was dismantled and stored, whilst archaeologists investigated the area, recovering a number of artefacts. It would seem that both the Roman settlers and the town’s people of 1920 valued the view, but for different reasons.

Following the excavation, the site was re-covered to preserve it for future investigation. As November approached, people in the town began to ask if the annual remembrance service would be held as usual in the Prospect. A surprisingly quick decision was made to reposition the memorial approximately 50m from it original location. The annual Remembrance service then took place on a cold and wet Sunday morning. Interestingly, this was the second time in 2008 that a memorial was rededicated in this area. In March, the Greytree memorial was re-dedicated, having been refurbished. I am not sure if there are many other towns in the UK where two memorials have been re-dedicated in the same year.

The re-sited memorial in Prospect Park

It is now hoped that the newly discovered Roman remains will be further explored, and will eventually prove a visitor attraction for the town. Meanwhile, a little way along the hillside, the war memorial stands, once more overlooking the towns and fields from which those it commemorates came.

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