This work is an osteological study of four cases of Colles' fracture from a 3rd–4th century AD British archaeological site. Each case was from an elderly female. Investigation of the degree of malunion suggests lack of effective reduction for these fractures. The poor anatomical outcome appears generally to have resulted in poor functional outcome; detailed anatomical study provided evidence for impairment of function of the distal radioulnar joint, ulnocarpal abutment and scapholunate diastasis, conditions which would probably have caused long-term residual disability. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.