Monday, 8 April 2013


When people are asked about the history of Bedminster, it is likely that for many the image is of an industrial working-class suburb dominated by two large employers in the shape of WD & HO Wills (tobacco) and E S A Robinson (paper bags) who moved into the area in the 1880s. They might also be aware of the Bedminster coalmining industry dating back to the 17th century.

However, Bedminster can trace its history back much further than this.  It has long been suspected that East Street and West Street had origins from at least the Roman period.  Roman coins found when the foundations for the Bedminster Hippodrome were dug in East Street in 1911 indicated that this might indeed be the case and the more recent discovery of a Romano-British settlement during excavations at the Mail Marketing Building in West Street confirm that indeed there was some form of settlement in the Bedminster area during the Roman period.

Bedminster was also a site of major importance during the early Anglo-Saxon period.  Its very name indicates that it was the site of a minster church or monasterium whilst Bedminster is recorded in the Somerset Domesday as one of a very select group of just twelve royal vills or estates that are believed to be amongst the most ancient in the county.

To try and establish what sort of settlement might have existed at Bedminster, we need to step back and look at the context of Bedminster in the wider area and its place in the Roman occupation and exploitation of Britain.

So this series of articles will look at how Bedminster fitted into the Roman and early Saxon landscape, it’s probable role in the transportation of lead and silver extracted from the mines on the Mendip Hills, its position in the Roman transport network and how that linked to the Chew Valley and the Mendips, it’s role in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex as an ancient royal manor, the likelihood of it being a centre for early Christian worship, and how it and other neighbouring territories in the Chew Valley and on the Mendips might provide clues to how the Saxons implemented their takeover of the Romano-British lands to the south of the Bristol Avon.

Part one looks at the natural resources that Britain was famous for throughout the classical world – precious metals, and, in particular the Lead and Silver mined on the Mendips.

Part two looks at the Roman road from the Mendips down into the Chew Valley, and the proposed Roman Road linking the Chew Park villa estate with Bedminster.

Part three finishes by looking at Bedminster itself, its possible role in Roman Britain, and its importance in the Early Saxon administration.

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