BIG NEWS: site open day at 97 High Street, Colchester on 13th February – Roman monumental arcade

The Trust is delighted to announce that we will be holding a site open day on Saturday 13th February 2016, at 97 High Street in Colchester. Our clients – Flying Trade Group plc – have very kindly agreed to open their construction site to visitors for the day. This is an extremely important archaeological site, where we have been investigating the massive foundations of the monumental Roman arcade which originally fronted the precinct of the Temple of Claudius. The arcade is unique in Britain and Trust director Philip says that these foundations represent the largest Roman arcade in the northern Roman empire. We have exposed about 13 metres of the arcade’s foundations and visitors will be able to view these, specially labelled and illuminated for the day! We will also be projecting a video of the new 3d-modelling of the arcade which has been created for the Trust by local designer Roger Massey-Ryan.

The Temple of Claudius was the only Roman temple dedicated to an imperial cult (that of the emperor Claudius) in Britain: it was built in about AD 54. (The emperor Claudius came to Camulodunum – the Iron Age precursor of Colchester – during the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43.) Colchester Castle is built on the foundations of the temple and the temple door would have faced this frontal arcade. A fragment of the temple precinct wall can be seen in Castle Park. The arcade may have been built at the same time as the temple or in the late 1st-early 2nd century AD. The remains of the arcade were first discovered in 1953, but our current investigations of the foundations have been extensive and revealing… The remains of the temple and the arcade are remarkable. We are also very interested in the Temple of Claudius and its arcade because, on chariot-racing days, a large religious procession or pompa – including the chariots and horses – would have travelled from the temple to the Roman circus before the start of the races. The temple precinct here would have been like the Forum in Rome, and a very busy space, with people going to and from the temple and, possibly, with market stalls and crowds of people shopping and socialising. They would have entered the precinct through the archways of the arcade. The temple and the arcade may have been still standing at the time of the Norman invasion of England and only demolished then… (Read more about the arcade on this web-site at www.thecolchesterarchaeologist.co.uk/?p=13840 .)

The site will be open from 10.00am until 4.00pm and admission is free. Trust archaeologists, excavators and volunteers will be there to direct visitors and to chat, and Trust director Philip and Trust deputy director Howard will be there all day to explain the site and the exposed foundations to our visitors in small groups. If you would like to visit the site, then we would ask you to go into the Castle Park and to the new park gate, almost opposite the castle entrance, which gives access to the rear of 97 High Street (‘Castle House’: postcode CO1 1UG). The site is wheelchair-accessible. We look forward to seeing you!
The surviving foundations of the Temple of Claudius can be viewed within Colchester Castle Museum.

Trust archaeologist Don Shimmin conducted our investigations on the site.

Our archaeological investigations at 97 High Street are being funded by Flying Trade Group plc. We are very grateful to Flying Trade Group for allowing us to hold the open day and for all their help in preparing the site for visitors.

*** The Roman circus centre is currently open Monday-Friday, 10.30am-4.30pm. On the 21st March, we will be re-opening our cafe and resuming the summer season opening hours for the Roman circus centre and site, which are Monday-Saturday, 10.00am-4.30pm. We look forward to seeing you at the Roman circus centre!

The images show a 3d-modelled representation of the Temple of Claudius, its precinct and the precinct wall including the monumental arcade (lower left) and a photo. of part of the exposed foundations of the arcade. The featured image – on the home page of the web-site – shows the arcade from the front. (The 3d-modelling of the temple, precinct and arcade is by Roger Massey-Ryan.) In the photo., you can see several column bases and part of the foundation of a blocking wall, from when the arches of the arcade were later blocked off.
Fragments of exotic marble have previously been found near the temple precinct, and elements of the arcade may have been decorated with brightly-coloured marble veneers during the reign of the emperor Hadrian in AD 117-138 (Cultural identity in the Roman empire, edited by J Berry & R Lawrence, 1998).

 

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