The designer of the
Kanovium Project can trace his interest in the Romans back to the late 1960’s, while a pupil at Church Walks school Old Colwyn. Thanks here to my old teacher, Mr Roberts. In the
main corridor of the school there was a display cabinet which featured past school achievements, trophies and the like, also displayed was a Roman coin. The coin had been found
locally, the school lighting was dim, and it was never really possible to see much detail, but later research has shown the coin was a denarius of Vespasian and had been found close to the town centre of Abergele. The author, remembers looking at this coin many times, I think it was the fact it was a local find that interested him, and soon an interest was sparked.
parental input baulked at providing me with any of these Roman coins, too expensive, anyway how would you go about buying one of those? my new hobby was certainly taken seriously and I remember been taken to the Grosvenor Museum at Chester, particularly striking was the Russell Robinson full sized reconstruction of a Roman Legionary, he still stands there today 30 years later, looking warlike despite his skirt, and children still strain their necks to see what he wears beneath it.
I soon discovered there was fort at Caerhun and was presently allowed to visit, but my initial reaction was ‘where is the fort and why are all those sheep standing on that large bank?’ My enthusiasm undampened by this set back I proceeded to read as much about the Roman army as I could, important books to me being ‘The Roman Imperial Army’ Graham Webster, this became a seminal work in later reprints but at that stage was only a Grosvenor Museum booklet, ‘The Ladybird Book Of Roman Britain’ and the works of Tacitus, I was about 9 years old. There is not a great deal to see of the Roman activities in North Wales so as I grew up interest in the Romans inevitably declined.
During January 1992 a chance visit to a library resulted in me picking up a book called ‘Roman Roads In Britain’ I forget the author but that evening my interest had been rejuvenated, I remembered something of what had so absorbed me as a child and my interest in Roman history was securely back on track. Soon a return to the library enabled me to practically empty the section on Roman history and for the next few months all my spare time was taken up reading about the ‘evil empire’ and its not inconsiderable achievements. My family though patient at this early stage soon got bored of hearing about ‘Masada’ ‘The Year Of The Four Emperors’ ‘Quinctilius Varus’ et al.
Soon therefore a Roman site had to be visited, I remembered the auxiliary fort at Caerhun (Graham Webster’s book as
a child had introduced me to the different parts of the Roman army, plus the later version actually featured a ground plan) and on a frozen morning in March 1992 I made the crucial revisit to Caerhun fort. I remember walking up and down the fort rampart, actually standing on something the Roman army had built really inspired me and I knew then that this visit was significant and that it was only the start of something that was going to be very large indeed. The remains seemed more substantial than I remembered as a child, the rampart at one corner cannot have been much diminished from the original form, (as stated in P.K Baillie Reynolds’ site report 5 feet six inches high) and as well as being substantial foundation level remains of the bath-house, surely the impressive remains down river of the fort was a dock? Also, the whole area of the remains featured many enigmatic
ground features, though at this early stage I was not able to figure out what they represented. Other significant milestones in my interest at this early stage had been visits to Bryn y Gefeiliau fort at Capel Curig, surely the stone remains are of a 18th century farmhouse? but no these had been a Roman ‘mansio’, also Segontium at Caernarvon was often visited, and by the summer of that year we were almost on the ‘cup of tea’ level with the affable CADW staff and volunteers at the fort.
Late August, 1993 saw us visit Hadrian’s Wall, I will never forget visiting Banks turret, very early in the morning, basically the
first substantial remains of the frontier to be reached from the M6 Motorway, followed by brooding Birdoswald, later that day we stood on the Whin Sill and looked out into oblivion, this was significant indeed, the next year we camped at the Lunt fort at Coventry, the only
reconstructed timber fort to be seen in Britain. The following year saw us visit the Antonine Wall and to reach the forest of Bennachie which is believed to be the site of Agricola’s battle with the Caledonii - Mons Graupius, passing all the marching camps of the various campaigns was an impressive insight into the activities of the Roman army, even our internal combustion engined vehicles seemed to be getting worn out with the distance involved.
So Caerhun fort had enabled us to visit Roman Britain’s premier remains, possibly culminating with a late night visit to the Walbrook Mithraeum,
heather ale induced bravery enabling us to scale the massive statue of Boudicca and to considered her well and truly conquered. We now had to look beyond ‘Ocean’ taking
a look at Portchester Castle on the way. We viewed the Rhine frontier, taking in Nijmegen, modern
reconstructions at Archeon in NL and Xanten, near Cologne and this time looked out into oblivion again, into Germania. Other notable visits were to Tarraconensis, Hispana, and here we actually stood in the footsteps of Augustus and Hadrian (both having resided here) to see the impressive remains here made Kanovium seem very far away but still significant. Finally a visit to the Teutoburger Wald, near Osnabruck, to view the Varian battle site of A.D 9, was an evocative, and quite sad event, which came ten years after our first visit to Hadrian’s Wall
Therefore during the 90’s we had seen many impressive remains of the Roman Empire, possibly the most breathtaking of all being the remains (remains? most of it still stands) of the amphitheatre at Saintes near Bordeaux, but all the time I realized that it was the small fort at Caerhun that was the catalyst to my interest, and it was this that kept my interest alive. I must have visited the place hundreds of times during the 90’s and became to consider it it one of my favourite locations ever visited.
During 1998 I became involved in Information Technology and the Internet, a search for information on Kanovium resulted
in a blank and I decided that should I ever become able to build my own website then I would fill the gap and devote a website to Kanovium. October 2000 my first website reached the Internet, it indeed was, and still is the only website dedicated to the Roman history of the North coast of Wales, and a web search now will find you pages of material on the fort, and therefore I feel it is fair to add it was my website which provided the impetus for this
So why the Kanovium Project? well apart from paucity of web material the fort was very unknown in the Conwy area, sure it had its place in Roman Britain, and can be found in most books, which can be attributed to the famous milestone bearing the fort name, but never in tourist guides, never on TV, always it would be the ‘important’ fort of nearby Segontium which would receive the attention. My website is to fill this gap, duly it was linked by many web tourist directories so I must have succeeded in this respect.
Secondly the area of the fort is farmed and appears to receive no management from any historical body,
other than an annual inspection by CADW. Occasionally ground work could be seen to be destroying evidence, particularly in the ‘vicus’ or area of civilian settlement which is still ‘scheduled’ as an ancient monument, in common with the 5 acre fort which is protected but still gets damaged by livestock and work such as fencing and drainage. Therefore I decided as well as being a
tourist utility the website should hope to raise the profile of Kanovium, in a way ‘one up for Kanovium’ This in done with 100% accuracy to source material and with impressive images, I hope you enjoy what you read, and that it not only leads you into a fascinating hobby but that you also visit Kanovio castellum and beautiful North Wales.
It also came to my notice that the website was being used for educational purposes, which was really marvellous, I hadn’t expected this, while I strive for 100% accuracy for facts (using really the only sources
existing about the fort, Baillie Reynolds - Kanovium, and Nash Williams/Jarrett - Roman Frontier in Wales) these books are now obviously out of date, and it is possible to pick up moderner interpretations from books on other
Roman activity in Britain, Romans in Scotland by Gordon S Maxwell was very useful. Basically what I am trying to say is when you make a website all the time you do it you wonder if anyone will actually ever look at it, so when I heard it was used in schools it certainly gave me some encouragement to go further with it. In Britain Roman studies has been re-introduced to the National Curriculum, but I also heard that it was being used by schools in the U.S.A. Later I heard it was being used at The University of Wales at Bangor.
Kanovium Project have been increasing, and I would like to thank the following for their generous links
Most images used in this website are the property of the The Kanovium Project, some images have been supplied by my Roman Britain contacts, Ken Evans has been very helpful in supplying many of the excellent images used in this website, in the main, The Kanovium Image Gallery. H.J.P Arnold kindly supplied the study of a Roman auxiliary soldier used on my essay describing the Roman Army, and David and Lindsey from Legio Secvnda Avgusta kindly allowed me to feature their reconstruction of the cavalry grave monument in the image. Thanks are also due to re-enactment society Britannia who supplied the three images of late Roman soldiers used on my Roman Army page.
Any images not
the property of the author are usually named, all used with acknowledgment and with thanks, apologies if there are any omissions’. Some plans and diagrams ahve been drawn from earlier sources and we claim no copyright for
The sources for this website while in the main - Kanovium Excavation Report, and The Roman Frontier in Wales, M.G. Jarrett 2nd edition 1969 and also most of the bibliography contained on my Books and Museums page. No study of this nature would be possible without the numerous and unremitting studies into Roman Britain that have
been previously undertaken over the last century. Many theories in this website belong to the author, eleven years study into this subject certainly supplies a person with their own perspective, as does nine years active
research into Roman arms and armour.
This website is designed, created and maintained by The Kanovium Project, who wish to be recognized as the author, all images owned by are copyright of the Kanovium Project, and may
not be used for any means for profit without permission being sought. Any of this material can be used freely for educational purposes. Would any persons linking specific images please give The Kanovium Project a
Also, special thanks to David Hopewell who kindly gave me an early view and interpretation of the Geophysics results from Gwynedd Archaeological Trust’s Environs
of Roman forts Project survey at Kanovium vicus July 2002. Thanks to Gwynedd Archaeological Trust and Nina Steele for allowing me to use the Geophysics results, and the air shots.
Some more thanks are due here, firstly to all the people who have contacted me with positive comments on Kanovium Project, I guess the ones that don’t like it don’t bother to write :) So thanks to all of you, I was
happy to actually meet a reader of this website, Peter Buck at the fort site.
Thanks to Pete Preston for his unremitting enthusiasm and knowledge for all things involving computers.
Thanks to Tony Westwood for photographic assistance.
Thanks to Michael Hardy for his painting of the auxiliary soldier seen above.
Thanks to David Swarbrick for his reproduction of the fort site
Thanks to RCAHMW for allowing reproduction of the air shots.
Thanks to Colin Wallace SAIR Editor Society of Antiquaries for Scotland for information regarding P.K. Baillie Reynolds.