Neatham – near Alton
The place-name of Vindomi is mentioned twice in the Itineraries, – XII and XV, though the duplication in XII is in all probability an oversight by one copyist or another in mediaeval times. The exact route of the initial leg in this Itinerary – Calleva to Vindomi – has been the cause of much debate. This is because the distance recorded in Itinerary VII between Venta Belgarum and Calleva is 22 Roman miles. There is a clearly identifiable Roman road between these two places [Margary 42a], and the the distance is 22.5 statute miles. Yet in Itinerary XV, the distance between Venta Belgarum and Vindomi is 15 Roman miles, then Vindomi to Venta Belgarum is 21 miles. Clearly, the total distance of 36 points to Vindomi being on another road, or roads, altogether. But here we enter a major historical difficulty. until the 1960′s, no other road was known, and so the location of Vindomi was subject to speculation and theories. Here I record some of the places where Vindomi has been located.
Calleva has long been identified as the Roman city found near the modern village of Silchester. The Vyne was identified by its 19th century owner, Sir Charles Chute, as the site of Vindomi (1). The reasoning being (presumably) that it was close to the Roman road from Silchester to the south, and because The Vyne had a similar name to the first section of its Roman namesake. However this is flawed as The Vyne is too close to Silchester: according to the Itinerary, Vindomi should be 15 Roman miles away. It is barely 4.
In this decade, the Ordnance Survey first produced their Map of Roman Britain(2) that included a list of all known Roman place-names which could be located with some certainty, plus a map of the roads of the Antonine Itinerary. Although Vindomi was not listed in their Index of Roman Names,(as the site was not conclusively located), they did show Vindomi on the road running from Silchester to Andover. After a short distance, this road then bent from its course towards Old Sarum, and went towards Winchester. Of course, these roads do exist, and are definitely Roman, but their belief in Vindomi being sited at the Andover end of the stretch running towards Old Sarum was merely based on the knowledge that existed at the time.
Margary had this to say of the location of Vindomi (he referred to it as Vindomis):
Perhaps the most intractable problems [in regard to the Antonine Itinerary] are the position(s) of … Vindomis. The [Ordnance Survey] map also shows the deviation to Vindomis in Iter XV, between Silchester and Winchester, as following the Port Way (4b) westward to the crossing with Road 43 at East Anton and then down this to Winchester, placing Vindomis upon the former at St Mary Bourne, the distances concerned being XV and 15, and XXI and 16 1/2. The discrepancy in the latter stage seems to leave the matter still in considerable doubt.
In the Addenda to his Roman Roads in Britain, Volume II, Margary also gave more details about road 155. In Volume I it had been traced as far as Milland. The Ordnance Survey had now traced it all the way to Silchester. Margary noted (4) that it was visible as a narrow lane leading up towards the ridge above Neatham.
While it was good news that another Roman road had been found, Vindomi was remaining difficult to locate.
It was 1970 when work on the Alton by-pass revealed some potentially Roman foundations at this same Neatham (5). Excavations revealed a fine bath house, and several wells. It was clear that there was a substantial station at Neatham, and it was located on the road that had been traced by the Ordnance Survey in the 1950′s. Could this be Vindomi? It was noted that the distance, along route 155 between Calleva and Neatham was indeed 15 miles, thereby agreeing to Itinerary XV.
There was still a length of road missing – the road running from Neatham to Winchester, to satisfy the next leg of Iter XV. North East Hampshire Historical and Archaeological Society (NEHHAS), with the Roman Road project headed by Dr Richard Whaley, was able to discover this road in the early 2000′s. Dr Richard Whaley has continued to head up the NEHHAS (Field Archaeology Branch) whilst still engaged in discovering yet more roads in the area.
(1) An exhibition board at The Vyne mentions this. This National Trust property is also notable as having one of the first classical porticos built in Britain, and it also has a replica of a Roman ring found close by, which apparently became rather important after a certain JRR Tolkein inspected it in the 1930′s. Full story here (warning: it is the Daily Mail).
(2) The Map of Roman Britain, Third Edition, Southampton, 1956, p.21.
(3) Roman Roads in Britain, Vol II, Ivan D. Margary, Phoenix House, London, 1957 p. 249.
(4) Margary, op.cit., p.257.
(5) Roman-Britain.org.uk, page for Vindomis. Retrieved Nov 2013.