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a sherford tamar meavy plym taw aune tavy dart eXe erme teign lomen sig wrey buui


 the Ravenna Cosmography identifies a major regional Roman-era settlement as Nemetostatio in central Dumnonia  identified with North Tawton, Devon)which would translate from Latin as *The Outpost of the Sacred Grove*

 The south-west

The first section of the Ravenna Cosmography to deal with Britain, covering 10546 to 1065, is obscure but nevertheless generally recognised as dealing with south-western England . Why it should have been separated out by the Cosmographer is not at all clear.

 Rivet and Smith (1979, 197) see it as evidence for a special source covering this area in greater detail than the rest of Britain.

This does not seem a necessary hypothesis for reasons to be given.

Indeed, the words that introduce the next section, ‘Again, next to the aforementioned civitas Isca Dumnoniorum’ iterum iuxta superscriptam ciuitatem scadumnamorum , strongly hint that the Cosmographer is looking at the same map as he used as a source for this section.

We will see many instances of the Cosmographer duplicating names throughout his text, the most startling being *Moridunum* , Sidford, which is repeated no less than four times. However, they are not noticeably more common in this section than in those that follow. Had he employed a special and separate source for the south-west, it is difficult to see how he would have integrated the information he derived from it with that he derived from his main source without making many more such duplications. We would on this hypothesis also expect the following long section which covers the province or diocese of Britannia to contain a few names relating to the south-western peninsula which the Cosmographer had not noticed as duplications: we do not find them.

Arguments e silentio are never strong; more telling are the duplications within this section that cannot be the result of taking names from two different sources.

 For instance, the name *Antiuesteum* appears twice, at , in both cases with virtually the same truncation.

 This truncation may well have occurred if the first three or four letters of the name were written ‘in the sea’ on the Cosmographer’s postulated map source . The same error of reading is extremely unlikely to have occurred as a result of using two separate source documents.

There are thus no compelling reasons to believe that the Cosmographer was using a separate and fuller source for the south-west of Britain than for the remainder of the island. True enough, the density of names in the peninsula is high, but it is also high in Cumbria  and between the Roman walls . The contrast is not so much with a low density in the remainder of the province, but with specific areas, such as Wales and East Anglia, very poorly represented.

This does not solve the problem of why the Cosmographer should have seen Isca Dumnoniorum, Exeter, as a point at which to insert a break in his listing. The Peutinger Table may offer a clue: although Britain is severely truncated, with only East Anglia and Kent appearing on the surviving copy, Moridunum and Isca Dumnoniorum are also shown without any intervening south-coast places.

It is possible that Isca Dumnoniorum was depicted as prominent in some way, perhaps isolated on a promontory or, as seems more likely, as the gateway to .

 In this way the Cosmographer might have decided to break his text at a point which appeared dictated by the geography of the region. He does so further north, where his listing of the Antonine Wall forts occurs ‘where that same Britain is seen to be narrowest from sea to sea’ ubi et ipsa britania plus angustissima de oceano in oceanum esse dinoscitur .

Although this was not the primary reason for inserting a break at this latter point, the Cosmographer was clearly sensitive to the depicted shape of the island.




On the other hand, we should perhaps take into account the curious fact that the Civitas Dumnoniorum (basically the Cornish peninsula west of Exeter) appears to have been a part of Britain virtually unaffected by those changes to élite behaviour usually termed ‘romanisation’. Is it possible that much of it lay outside provincial or diocesan control and that some kind of border was depicted on the Cosmographer’s map source as separating the south-western peninsula from the rest of Britain? In that case, Isca Dumnoniorum may have been prominent as a point of contact between the wilds of the far south-west and the more ‘civilised’ Durotriges (or Durotrages, following RIB 1673: the form of the name is very uncertain according to Rivet & Smith 1979, 352) to the east. Group 1: the Cornish Peninsula V ¶31 in qua britania plurimas fuisse ciuitates et castra legimus ex quibus aliquantas designare uolumus id est:

 Giano Barnstaple  10546

 Eltabo River Taw 10546

 Elconio River Torridge ? 10547

 Nemetotatio North Tawton 10547

 Tamaris Launceston ? 10548

 Puro coronauis ? 10548

 Pilais ? 10549

 Vernilis Liskeard ? 10549

 Ardua rauenatone River Dart 10550

 Deuionisso Statio ? 10551

 deuentia steno Buckfastleigh / Totnes ? 10551/10552

 Duriarno Plymouth  10552

 Vxelis Barnstaple ? 1061

 Verteuia Land’s End 1061 = 1069

This group appears to take us on a general perambulation of the Cornish Peninsula and adjacent area

 * Taua, the second name, is clearly the River Taw .

 *Nemetostatio is probably the fort at North Tawton, which is in an area where a group of modern names containing the elements Nymet and Nemet are found .

 The identification of *Conio* with Ptolemy’s  must therefore be questioned as the general progression seems to be from north-east to southwest.

 It may refer the River Torridge, although this is a Celtic name, derived from a Brittonic *Torric-, ‘violent, rough’.

 *Glano* should therefore be somewhere in north Devon, perhaps in the vicinity of Barnstaple.

 Tamaris, this a site on the River Tamar , perhaps at the crossing at Launceston , not the river itself , as the name recurs in the list of river-names . *Durocornouio* and *Pilais*

Britannia in the Ravenna Cosmography: a reassessment K J Fitzpatrick-Matthews



cannot now be identified. Charles Thomas (1966a, 87) originally identified the former with The Rumps, a pre-Roman defended enclosure.

 More recently, he suggested that it might be Tintagel, the site of an important sub-Roman trading settlement, although its Romano-British status is not clear . *Vernilis* may be the , perhaps near Liskeard ; the correct RomanoBritish form may have been *Verleua.

The Cosmographer’s form would have arisen by way of a transposition of -l- and -u-, the latter being miscopied as -n-.

The next name must be for * Deruentione, the River Dart, so the Cosmographer’s eye may have moved from travelling along the spine of Cornwall, following the poorly known road along the centre of the peninsula, and he has possibly now turned his attention to the road south from Exeter, closer to the south Devon coast.

 Deuionisso Statio and *Deruentio Statio (which are wrongly divided in the text) are probably unlocated Roman government establishments, perhaps tax offices. The latter may have lain in the Dart valley (Dart being Brittonic *Deruentiu: Ekwall 1928, 114), perhaps at Buckfastleigh or Totnes, and the former perhaps near Newton Abbot or elsewhere on the River Teign. The next name, Duriarno, is probably not the same as Durnouaria (Dorchester), as suggested by Rivet & Smith (1979, 345) following Horsley (1732, 490), since it is probably not corrupt (compare the Arnodurum quoted by Williams (Richmond & Crawford 1949, 32), which shows the more usual ‘continental’ ordering of elements). Instead, it may be the name of a site in the vicinity of Plymouth where the inhumation cemetery at Mount Batten and a sequence of coins attest a settlement of some importance (Thomas 1966a, 86). Uxelis is too far west to be the same as Ptolemy’s Οὔξελλα (II.3, 13), which must be on the River Parrett, his Οὐεξάλλα εἴσχυσις (II.3,2), and may be a site or river in Cornwall, perhaps the Fowey or the Fal, unless it is an example of a name written to the west of its symbol on the map source. If this is the case, then it may have been near Barnstaple (Strang 1997, 30). Group 2: the south Devon and Cornish coast  Melamoni Sidford ? 1062 = 1064/1069/10613

 Scadumnamorum Exeter


 Mesteuia - Land’s End

The mention of Moridunum, Sidford , for the first time indicates a change of direction, and there are now hints of an ordering of names with a general progression from east to west. The -l- for -r- in Moridunum is also found in the next section; it may be that the name was very difficult to read in the Cosmographer’s source. It is unlikely to have occurred as a result of misreading two separate documents, further evidence for the essential unity of the Cosmographer’s sources. The unlocated *Terminum would have been somewhere between Exeter and Land’s End, an admittedly imprecise location. The River Gowy in Cheshire was formerly known as the aqua de Tervin (‘water of Tarvin’) in 1209, the name deriving from the Latin terminus, ‘boundary’, via Welsh Terfyn (Dodgson 1970, 26), which has been retained by a large parish and village. Although the origin of the latter name is generally sought in the post-Roman politics of the region (Bu’Lock 1972, 24), it is probable that the River Gowy was the eastern boundary of the prata legionis of the fortress at Chester. Could a similar origin be suggested for this name, at the western boundary of the prata legionis of the early fortress at Exeter or the territorium of the later capital of the Civitas Dumnoniorum?

 Somerset  Milidunum Sidford ? 1064=1062/1069/10619

 Apaunaris Bath ? 1064

 Masona Camerton? 1065

 Alouergium Shepton Mallett 1065

The Cosmographer returns to Moridunum, with the same peculiar -l- for -r- as in the previous group, and a similarly logical ordering of names this time jumping north-eastward and then working back to the starting-point identify Apaunaris with Aquae Sulis, Bath, perhaps correctly, so the two remaining names may relate to sites between Bath and Sidford.

<Masona> suggests a name derived from that of a river, although which cannot now be ascertained; it perhaps refers to the small town at Camerton. The name is corrupt. *Alobergium should be in a hilly location, probably near the Mendip Hills at Shepton Mallett, where parts of a Romano-British small town have recently been identified.

Romans crossed the River Taw at what is now Newland Mill , a little outside the present town , and established a succession of military camps there over the years.  The Roman fort is believed to have had the name Nemetostatio, meaning "The road-station of the sacred groves", and may have been located on the site of an ancient druidic sanctuary.

 It covered an area of roughly 600 ft (185m) east-west by 390 ft (120m), and was located adjoining the Roman road between Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter) and Okehampton.

In addition, the site of a temporary marching camp has been identified half a mile to the north.[3]


North Tawton station in 1970.

By the time of the Domesday survey (1086), there were six farm / manor holdings in what is now North Tawton Parish, including that of Tawton which was the forerunner of the town we know today.

St Peter's Church is first recorded in 1257. Only the tower of the present building dates from that time, with the rest being mostly 14th and 15th century. The tower is on the west and is topped by an oak-shingled spire. There are two aisles with granite arcades and a number of old benchends.[4]


North Tawton station in 1969

North Tawton was already a market town by the end of the 12th century. Agriculture and the woollen industry provided the chief sources of employment for many centuries, but the former has much declined as a source of employment and the latter has gone altogether, the last town woollen mill closing in 1930.

The railway came to North Tawton in 1865. North Tawton railway station (now closed) lies a mile or two outside the town on the line from Exeter to Okehampton which continued on to Plymouth and Cornwall. It closed to through passenger traffic in 1968, although a shuttle service between Okehampton and Exeter continued until 1972.

Bathe Pool, a grassy hollow near North Tawton, is said to fill with water at times of national crisis.