Caernarfon community celebrates launch of new Segontium Visitor Centre

Thursday 01 May 2014

  • Cellan Harston at the entrance to Segontium Roman Fort’s new visitor centre.

    Cellan Harston at the entrance to Segontium Roman Fort’s new visitor centre.

  • John Griffiths AM, Minister for Culture and Sport, and some ‘Roman soldiers’ at the opening of Segontium Roman Fort’s new visitor centre.

    John Griffiths AM, Minister for Culture and Sport, and some ‘Roman soldiers’ at the opening of Segontium Roman Fort’s new visitor centre.

  • Seren Evans-Charrington from Bubbling Stove performed a cookery demonstration at the opening event.

    Seren Evans-Charrington from Bubbling Stove performed a cookery demonstration at the opening event.

  • John Griffiths AM, Minister for Culture and Sport, at the opening of Segontium Roman Fort’s new visitor centre.

    John Griffiths AM, Minister for Culture and Sport, at the opening of Segontium Roman Fort’s new visitor centre.

  • Ed Greenhalgh at the entrance to Segontium Roman Fort’s new visitor centre.

    Ed Greenhalgh at the entrance to Segontium Roman Fort’s new visitor centre.

Members of the local community in Caernarfon gathered today (Thu 1 May) at Segontium Roman Fort to celebrate the launch of a new visitor  and community centre developed by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Service, following three years of planning and building work.

It is hoped the centre which will house visitor information and exhibitions about Segontium - one of Wales’ most significant Roman archaeological sites - will become a hub for archaeology within the area as well as a focal point for community activities and events.  

The culmination of an extensive partnership between Cadw, Communities First and local community groups, the project comes as Baroness Andrews OBE sets out her findings in a report on the power of culture in promoting social justice in Wales. The new centre is a flexible space capable of accommodating 100 people, with the intention of improving the social opportunities of the surrounding community.  

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust will use the centre to showcase their findings from a recent excavation in nearby Llanbeblig and from further afield. There is also a calendar of events planned for the centre, including a Roman Invasion on the 19-20 July, as part of the British Festival of Archaeology, complete with gladiators, Roman cookery lessons, mystery excavations and archery. Every Wednesday the centre hosts a Meet the Archaeologist session.

Interpretation is planned in three stages and will depict what life on the fort would have been like for those who stayed there, with themed replicas, an interactive mini-dig for kids and the chance to handle Roman pottery found during Mortimer Wheeler’s famous 1920s excavation of the site.

Caernarfon Town Councillor Anita Kirk has been working with Cadw to develop the new Centre, she said: “This is a wonderful, practical facility which has been developed with the specific needs of this community in mind.

“The project has created much stronger links with the local community, improved awareness of Segontium and its historical importance and also made it relevant to the lives of the people living around the site.”

John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport, who officially opened the Centre today, said: “This is an excellent new facility in Caernarfon and I would like to thank everyone in the local community for supporting its development.

“This new centre will raise awareness of the Roman Story of Wales and provide an educational hub for all aspects of the rich heritage and archaeology of north-west Wales. It will be a pull for visitors and local residents alike and supports the Government’s aims of tackling poverty through heritage and culture and anchoring culture within communities.”

Year 4 pupils from local primary school Ysgol yr Hendre were some of the first members of the community able to enjoy the new centre by taking part in a morning of traditional Roman pot making.

Ysgol yr Hendre headteacher Arwel Wyn Jones said of the new facilities: “The new visitor centre will provide a valuable space for the school to enjoy a number of events and educational programmes. It’s a great place for our pupils the opportunity to learn more about why Segontium is such a significant part of our local history and activities such as making pots using traditional Roman techniques will help bring the history of the site to life.”

Alongside the development of the centre, Cadw is running an innovative project providing tour guide training for local young people in partnership with the North Wales Tour Guide Association.

Two four-day workshops in Segontium and nearby Cae’r Gors attracted 30 16-25 year olds. The sessions gave young people the opportunity to develop communication skills and enhance historical knowledge of the area, with the aim of equipping the trainees with the skills needed to deliver guided tours of the sites.

5 things you didn’t know about Segontium:  
• When viewed from the sky Segontium can be seen to be laid out in the ‘playing card’ shape that is typical of Roman forts.
• The governor of Britannia, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, completed the Roman conquest of Wales by suppressing the Ordovices and capturing Mona (Ynys Môn) in AD 77: this site can be dated to that year.
• An inscription from AD200 found at the site shows the exact garrison that occupied it during the 3rd century. They were the 500-strong First Cohort of Sunici, who were originally from Germany.
• A relief found at Segontium depicts Mars, the God of War. The Romans were known to worship many gods.
• Long after the final departure of the legions, Segontium passed into Welsh legend as Caer Aber Seint (the fort at the mouth of the river) and is mentioned in the dream of Macsen Wledig in the early tales of the Mabinogion.