The Roman town of Durocornovium was located at Covingham, less than a mile from South Marston, on the junction of two Roman roads, the Ermin Way and the road south to Mildenhall (Cunetio). The Ermin Way connected London via Silchester to Cirencester (Corinium), the second largest Roman town after London. Durocornovium was founded in the First Century as a military camp but it became a merchant town covering more than sixty acres and having a population of several thousand at its peak in 350AD. Excavations were made in the 1970’s and the site of the Mansio (an inn) is a Scheduled Monument. See The Romano–British Small Town at Wanborough by A S Anderson et al.
It is likely that Durocornovium was supplied with agricultural produce by farms and villas in the surrounding countryside.
The Dobunni tribe accepted Roman occupation and embraced a Romano-British culture.
From the 1st to 4th Century AD, South Marston is likely to have been a large Romano-British farming settlement.
Roman features, pottery and coins have been found throughout South Marston.
https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk is a useful source.
Alfred Williams in “A Wiltshire Village” mentions the existence until about 1840 of a Roman camp at Rowborough farm with stone walls four feet high enclosing an area of an acre on a mound; did a straight Roman road lead from the Ermin Way to Rowborough? Maps show a spur off the Ermin Way which lines up with Rowborough Lane and a track through South Marston Farm and an archaeological feature (200m track) recorded by the County Archaeologist in the field adjoining Marston Farm. Was it a causeway over the marsh?
To the South of the village centre, numerous Roman artefacts have been found.
Pottery fragments found in and around South Marston.
These have been recovered from an area of approximately 10 acres. There is a great deal of common and day-to-day pottery, typical of low-status sites. Starting from the bottom of the picture, we see light coloured, rough pottery; next is typical greyware; then there is a good selection of black burnished ware. The remainder contains a small quantity of English-made Samian ware, a very small quantity of decorated pieces, metal pins, and one piece of Roman glass.
Further south of the village centre, more Roman finds were unearthed when the police station was built. These included North Wiltshire greywares, black sandy wares, Savernake ware, sandy orange and buff wares.
The Government’s website on flooding shows how the village would look if there was flooding in the area. The water level would have been something like this in Roman times, when the village centre was probably very marshy, if not often under water.
We are aware of these sites because of recent developments and archaeological investigation. It has been noticed that these are probably the only places that have been investigated. If this is the case, it’s also possible that these sites covered much wider areas. The items recovered over 10 acres that are a short distance from the police station finds, suggest this might be the case.
It is likely that the proximity of Ermin Street and Wanborough made South Marston an ideal farming area. The excellent soil and plentiful supply of water would have contributed to a good yield that could easily be transported for distribution elsewhere. (Ermin Street was the route to Cirencester – the second largest Roman town after London).
All of this leads us to the conclusion that during Roman rule in Britain, South Marston was a large, bustling, farming community.
There is much more work to be done yet. If anyone can help, it would be much appreciated.
We have yet to answer many questions: there are a number of hedgerow tracks in the village. How old are they? They are quite straight but does that mean they are Roman? Did the Romans make pottery in the village? There is a lot of clay in the village, and Roman kilns are known in West Swindon. If this was a large community, where did they worship? Where did they bury their dead?
Within the parish, we also have a possible Roman fort and a possible Roman villa that are yet to be investigated. Who dug the quarry to the north of the village and why? A lot of iron stone has been found nearby – was this what was being dug out?