Today (16th July), Trust director Philip made his weekly site visit to our current excavation at the Williams & Griffin store in the High Street at Colchester. Trust archaeologist Adam Wightman, who is supervising the excavation, took him through the week’s work on site.
The Trust’s excavation team has excavated down to the layers of Roman occupation material and are now working their way down through the Roman layers. The exciting news this week is that they have uncovered part of one of the north-south streets of the Roman town. This originated as the main, north-south street of the legionary fortress (the via principalis), dating back to circa AD 44. When the fortress was later extended and converted to the Roman town, from circa AD 50, this street became just one of the town’s several north-south streets. The street was re-established during the rebuilding of the town after the Boudican revolt in AD 61, when the town had been destroyed. We have uncovered part of one of the surfaces of the street. The street is made up of a sequence of episodes of resurfacing and consists of very hard, compacted gravel with some sand, about a metre thick. The uppermost surviving surface is hard to date, but it may be 4th century. It may also have had more surfaces on top, which have been destroyed by post-Roman cultivation or other activities on the site.
We have also just uncovered the edge of a sequence of floors of a Roman building on the western side of the street, which is very intriguing. The floors are all made of pink mortar (opus signinum). The sequence is interesting because of the extensive use of opus signinum, and because the floors extend over a long distance. We don’t know if the floors belonged to an unusual building, perhaps a workshop or storage building, or if they represent a footway. The floor layers are also very low down in the stratigraphic sequence, which means that they are probably early; although we have no dating evidence for the floors, they may have belonged to a building in the fortress which was, perhaps, re-used in the early Roman town. On the eastern side of the street, we have just clipped a sequence of layers of medieval or post-medieval date, which must relate to the yard behind the timber-framed building which fronted the north side of the High Street here, on the southern edge of our current site.
The Trust’s excavations at the Williams & Griffin store are being funded by Fenwick Ltd.
The images show a plan of the Roman fortress in circa AD 44-50 (from the Trust’s popular book City of Victory) and a photo. of the remains of the street.