We recently returned to the Sixth Form College on North Hill, where a sister building to the existing IT unit is to be built on the ‘north site’. This is situated close to the town wall in the north-west corner of the college. Earlier in the year we carried out an evaluation in order to determine the height of the latest significant archaeological deposits on the site. The design of the building was then modified to minimise its impact on the archaeological remains. It is supported mainly on piles (visible in the photo).
A few weeks ago we returned to monitor the groundworks as they progressed. Over most of the site nothing significant was disturbed, apart from the bones of a dog buried in relatively recent times. However at the southern edge of the site, where the proposed building was terraced slightly into the hillside, machining clipped the uppermost Roman levels. This consisted mainly of a yellowish clayey layer containing a large quantity of painted Roman wall-plaster fragments. This was probably demolition debris from a Roman building. The wall-plaster fragments were painted in an assortment of colours and designs, and it should be possible to reconstruct the decorative schemes from which they came. Also found was a coin as well as some pottery which should help us to date these deposits.
Large amounts of painted wall-plaster were found a few years ago during the construction of the ‘mid-site’ college buildings to the south-east. Other discoveries at this time included the probable remains of a well-preserved bath-house and a large Roman town house with mosaic and tessellated floors. This was possibly a mansio -the Roman equivalent of an hotel.
Right at the end of the recent work, the top of an east-west Roman foundation was uncovered in two places. Unusually this foundation survived unrobbed. Foundations of this type were often robbed for their stone in medieval times. The foundation would have supported the walls to which the painted wall-plaster was applied. The walls would have been timber-framed, infilled with daub. The timber would either have rotted away or been taken away and reused in Roman times.