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Where is the Veb?

By Tony Setterington

There is evidence of Roman mining for lead, and other metals, at many sites on Mendip.  Until recently the main area of extraction was assumed to be at Charterhouse where much of the excavating has been done and, of course, most of the artefacts discovered.  Gough includes other sites and further indicates that Medieval and post medieval activities have removed and reworked many of the surface areas originally exploited by the Romans.

Since the reign of Henry VIII some 20-lead ingots have been unearthed in southern Britain with others on the continent.  Many of these have been lost or melted down but four dug-up on Rookery Farm, near Green Ore, were described and interpreted by Palmer et al. and are now preserved in local museums.  In varying degrees of clarity, each of these ingots has BRIT.EX ARG.VEB; (from the British silverworks at VEB) cast on one side.  By analogy with ingots from Derbyshire, where LVT or LVTVD refers to the known production site of Lutudarium, VEB must be a Mendip smelting site.

A recent paper by Williams, summarising information on the Roman mining in the Priddy-Green Ore area, indicates at least 100 hectares of surface mining or occupation sites, probably more than at Charterhouse.  Since ingots with the VEB inscription have been found both at Charterhouse and Green Ore it must apply to both of these sites and, since no other inscription has been discovered it is assumed that VEB covers the whole of Mendip.

There are four places, and possibly others, that include two of the three letters of VEB in their names. Rookery Farm has been renamed Vespasian Farm, while Velvet Bottom, Vobster and Webbington probably derive from old English names.  The most likely, but far from proven, is Webb plus more modem endings.

Although we can conclude that we now know where VEB is the question of the whole Roman name for the area remains.  We will only have an answer when a gravestone with the complete form is found or historians read it in a shipping manifest or similar document, perhaps they already know and don't realise it.

Gough, IW., The Mines of Mendip. (Newton Abbot 1967)

Palmer, L.S. et aI, Four Roman Pigs of Lead from Mendip. In Proc. SANHS Vols. 101 and 102. ( Taunton 1958)

Williams, R.G.J., The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. In Proc. UBSS, 1998,21(2)