The Colchester Archaeological Trust is officially 50 years old today (19th February 2015). The Trust is a great little institution and it is fab. at 50 – and we say happy 50th anniversary to the Trust!
One of the important documents in our possession is the deed of the foundation of the original charitable trust: ‘… THIS TRUST DEED is made the Nineteenth day of February One thousand nine hundred and sixty five BY WILLIAM CHARLES THORN of Hunters Moon Dedham in the County of Essex JOHN GEORGE SAMUEL BRINSON of Housegrounds Barnston Little Dunmow in the said County and BERNARD MASON of Tymperleys Trinity Street
Colchester in the said County (hereinafter called “The Founders”) WHEREAS it is apprehended that moneys and property will be paid or transferred to the Committee as hereinafter constituted (hereinafter called the Committee) for the promotion of the charitable object hereinafter mentioned.
NOW THIS DEED WITNESSETH AS FOLLOWS:-
1. THE Founders hereby declare that all … moneys … shall be held upon trust to apply the same in accordance with the provision hereinafter contained for the promotion of and undertaking the excavation of archaeological sites in Colchester aforesaid and the surrounding or neighbouring district.
2. The name of the Charity shall be the Colchester Excavation Committee (hereinafter called the Trust) …’
The Colchester Excavation Committee was informally renamed the ‘Colchester Archaeological Trust’ in 1977. It was officially renamed and became a limited company, as well as a charity, three years later in 1980. Ros Dunnett (now Ros Niblett) was the first director of the Trust and she was succeeded by current director Philip Crummy in 1970. Ros supervised several important excavations at Colchester, including the site of the Roman theatre at Gosbecks and the site of a Roman house on North Hill which produced three mosaic floors.
The Trust’s first 50 years have seen great changes to the modern town of Colchester, all bringing unprecedented opportunites to investigate Colchester’s buried past. The scale of the archaeological work in Colchester has been quite exceptional for a historic town in Britain. In fact, excavations in the town centre continued all year round, without a break, from 1971 until 1982. These included major excavations at Lion Walk (our discovery of the Roman legionary fortress), Culver Street (more of the fortress and the later Roman town), Butt Road (the Roman church and cemetery), and Balkerne Lane (a Roman suburb). We have made other important discoveries since then, such as the remains of the Roman theatre in Maidenburgh Street, the Iron Age burial site at Stanway which produced the remarkable board-game and medical instruments and, more recently, the site of the Roman circus.
Archaeological practice has changed and matured considerably, as well, in response to a rapidly-changing commercial and heritage environment. ‘Rescue’ archaeology has evolved into a profession in which the Trust’s field unit works within the construction industry and fulfils planning requirements for our clients. We write a report for every project which we complete, and we produce copies of these on paper and in digital format for publication in our online archive. This archive is now seven years old and includes over 700 different project reports.
The core aims of the Trust are still the practice and promotion of archaeological research in Colchester and, as always, we try to achieve this by such means as the Friends of the Trust, lectures and ‘popular’ publications. With the establishment of the Roman circus centre, the Trust is taking its objective to promote Colchester’s past to a whole new level.
The Trust has occupied various interesting buildings since 1965 – at first the great East Hill House, then the beautiful 12 Lexden Road, and now, since 2012, Roman Circus House! The Roman circus has, literally, put us on the map.
Hundreds of people have worked for the Trust, on and off our sites, over the last 50 years.They have undertaken excavating, drawing, planning, cleaning finds, and all the other jobs which must be done to complete an archaeological excavation. Just as important, but in different ways, are the contributions from all our clients, Friends, supporters and, of course, our brilliant volunteers. We thank them all for the last 50 years. But the past is the past. We look forward to the next 50 years, and we hope that you do, too!
The images show two snapshots in the recent history of archaeology: Trust excavators working on Site E at Culver Street in Colchester town centre, in 1981, before the Culver Precinct was built (in black and white); and Trust excavators working on a more recent site. [Image to follow.]