Newport: The Not So Old Port

Lincoln's Newport Arch hints at a new date for Roman England. A very new date. Wed 10 November 2021

2013: South side of Newport Arch. Source

Note the partially submerged pavement level on the right of Newport's main arch in this 2013 image. The road level under Newport Arch's main arch is higher. This is because soil and débris has raised the original road level. Both road and pavement level were originally much lower than they are today.

From Romano-British Buildings and Earthworks, John Ward, 1911, p72:

A considerable portion of the north gate of Lincoln — the Newport Arch — is standing, but is buried to the extent of about 8 ft (2.4 m) in the soil and débris accumulated since Roman times.

From Visit Lincoln: Newport Arch:

The base of one of these towers can still be seen to one side of the gate by walking (north) through the arch and looking though the iron railings on your left. This shows that the modern street level is now around 3m higher than the original Roman ground level.


From Visit Lincoln: Castle Hill:

Roman Lincoln lies 2-3 metres beneath your feet.

Roman Lincoln is not alone:

The early town is buried under between 1 and 3 metres (9.8 ft) of sand...

But that's from Dunwich, the Suffolk coast port swamped by three storms in 1286 to 1287.

Unlike Dunwich, Newport Arch is 40 miles away from the sea and 61m (200ft) above it.

How did 8 ft (2.4 m) of soil and débris:

  • settle all over hilltop Roman Lincoln
  • settle on the main north road out of a town busy since AD 870
  • even where the road passed under a gated arch
  • at the top of a 200ft high hill?

Archaeologists call that soil and débris 'cultural layer'. They suggest it is the floor sweepings of medieval housewives. If so, this implies the main north road out of busy, industrial Lincoln was a homeowner's dustbin on which 8ft of trash could accumulate. But that stretch of road - called Bailgate - was the main thoroughfare heading north from the town.

Was no-one using it?

Where did it come from and when did it happen?

In 1756 Nathan Drake painted Newport Arch:

1756: South side of Newport Arch. Source: Usher Gallery

The arch is a ruin but the dressed face looks quite intact. Although vegetation grows on the top of the ruin, most of the ruin is clearly visible.

No coping stone protects the top of the ruin by this time. Rainwater landing on top of the wall should penetrate the gaps between stones - as well as any cracks in the stones. When the water freezes in winter, it should expand and spall off the surface dressing in a few decades. It will also damage the interior stonework but this won't be visible until the exterior faces fall away.

In 1816 - 60 years later - we see the ruin has lost enough stone that its height is about the same as today. By then it was even more overgrown.

1816: North side of Newport Arch. Source: The History of Lincoln

51 years later - in 1865 - a photograph shows the facing of the south wall of the arch. It looks about as worn as it does today:

Approx. 1865: South side of Newport Arch. Source

The vegetation has been removed and the wall of the arch looks about as rough as it does today. Presumably the damage since 1765 is a combination of freezing water, vegetation and, possibly the processes involved with removing vegetation.

So Newport Arch hasn't aged much in the last 150 years.

  • How old did the stonework of Newport Arch look in 1756, when it was (allegedly) 1,500 years old?
  • How old did the stonework look in 1816, when it was 1,570 years old?
  • How old did the stonework look in 1865, when it was 1,600 years old?
  • How old did the stonework look in 2013, when it was 1,760 years old?

Newport Arch seems to have aged most in the 111 years between 1756 and 1865. Vegetation was just starting to grow on it in 1756. Then, in the 60 years between 1765 and 1816, the arch became quite overgrown.

Put another way, the aging of Newport Arch appears to have suddenly accelerated when it was around 1,500 years old, then stabilised again when it was 1,600 years old.

Why is that?

50kms (30 miles) north of Rome, the 'early' Roman city of Falerii Novi is also covered by 2.5m of soil.

From Unearthing Falerii Novi:

When and how Falerii Novi became buried remains a mystery. How did such a large walled city become covered in so much soil? And what happened in late antiquity to cause its abandonment? The city was occupied through Roman antiquity and to the early medieval period (6th and 7th centuries CE) We know little of its later history

Unearthing Falerii Novi goes on to suggest that building - and therefore occupation - continued until just before 1571.

Which suggests soil covered Falerii Novi in around 1571.

That ties in with Newport Arch's inexplicably fresh wall facing in 1756.

It ties in with evidence of north west Europe's destruction and depopulation in 16th and 17th centuries.

Locations in this evidence collection.

© All rights reserved. The original author retains ownership and rights.

More in category: The Reformation Was A Reformatting
More by tag: #geology