This exhibition runs from 1st August to 31st October. The pictures above were taken at the time when the Caerwent Exploration Fund excavation was taking place. The exhibition is a fascinating record of an antiquarian excavation at the turn of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and is a must to visit. This exhibition of drawings and photographs relates to the Caerwent Exploration Fund Excavation of 1889-1913. Those of you who attended the Caerwent Study Day at Caerwent on 20th June will know that Curator Oliver Blackmore gave an excellent talk on this subject.
This fund was founded in 1899 largely by members of the Clifton Antiquarian Club which had formed in 1884. At a meeting of the Society on 16th February, 1899, A. T. Martin, in his report as Local Secretary for Gloucestershire, gave an account of some recent 'trial excavations ' at Caerwent, and formulated a scheme for the systematic exploration of the site. The suggestion having been approved and encouraged by the Club, it was decided at a meeting of local antiquarians held at Clifton, to appoint a committee, and to start a fund to be called the 'Caerwent Exploration Fund.' At a meeting held at Caerwent on 11th September, 1899, Godfrey Charles Morgan, Lord Tredegar, was elected President of the Exploration Fund. He was also the President of The Caerleon Antiquarian Association, founded in 1847, and was President of the Cambrian Archaeological Association.
Alfred Hudd the editor and secretary of the Clifton Antiquarian Club was elected Treasurer of the Fund and it was his tenacity which saw the project through to its conclusion. Most of the members came from the other side of the Severn, but the Severn Tunnel had made Caerwent more accessible. The Welsh side of the Severn estuary was represented by John Ward who was to become the first Keeper of Archaeology at the new National Museum of Wales in 1912. Ward was curator of Cardiff Museum, but he represented the Cambrian Association while C. T. Vachell a Cardiff surgeon and antiquarian represented Cardiff Museum.
Professor Francis Haverfield of Oxford University, a renowned Roman Archaeologist, was consulted and he suggested that his gifted former student Thomas Ashby should be employed. He was an archaeologist who was to become the first scholar and third director of the British School at Rome. Hudd and Ashby oversaw the excavation which was carried out by paid workmen. There can be no doubt that without Ashby the excavation would not have been so successful. Their method of excavation was to dig narrow trenches. By 1913 two thirds of the site had been explored, but the recovered plan was largely that of the late Roman town because they only cleared to floor level. The archive of the excavations and finds have been carefully preserved for over a century by Newport Museum. Please visit the exhibition.
For further reading see
‘Excavations at Caerwent, Monmouthshire, on the Site of the Roman City of Venta Silurum, in 1899 and 1900.’ Archaeologia (Second Series) / Volume 57 / Issue 02 / January 1901, pp 295-316:
G Boon, ‘Archaeology through the Severn Tunnel: the Caerwent Exploration fund, 1899-1917’ Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Volume 107, 1989.