Caerleon Net

The Most Extraordinary Explorations
Of Robert Woollett, 1878

In 1870 Robert Woollett purchased the house and castle grounds from John Jenkins. Eight years later he conducted one of the most extraordinary excavations to have taken place locally he tunnelled a distance of fifty feet (16m) into the mound! To view the full notes he made click here.

A local told Woollett that sixty years earlier a portion of the soil on the side of the mound slipped away to reveal an iron door and steps leading downwards Many of the local people had a strange story to relate about the mound; one reckoned that (after a night at the pub) he had been taken inside the mound and had seen King Arthur's men, asleep. To satisfy his own curiosity and to silence the 'Village Gossips', Woollett decided to tunnel into the mound. He chose a spot some six feet (2m) above the level of the surrounding ground to start the excavation. This was where the iron door was thought to be (and in line with the two towers found by Lee). 'Time Team' eat your heart out!

His findings:

· No iron door was located!

· The first few feet of earth was not very compact and was judged to be comparatively recent.

· Soon after that, pottery and tiles with LEG II AVG stamped on them were found.

· At a distance of twenty seven feet (9m) they met a wall - this they followed until they had progressed fifty feet (16m), it seemed to continue, they stopped! Around the wall they found NO Roman debris.

· Woollett concluded that the outer shell was recent; the mound consisted of earth and Roman debris piled on top of an older (pre Roman) structure.

If you haven't already done so, read the original account!

The tunnel entrance still exists, overgrown with bushes. It is only possible to enter some 10 feet (3m) as logs and stones piled right to the top block the way.

Sketch of the mound by Maybery when Atwood Thorne was the owner. The tunnel entrance can clearly be seen. Note also the bases of the Roman pillars found when the area was excavated by John Jenkins and John Lee.

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