Roman road at Colchester grammar school: August 2012

Adam Wightman of the Trust excavated two evaluation trenches at the Colchester Royal Grammar School in August 2012, ahead of the construction of a new performing arts block. The site lies to the west of Colchester town centre, immediately adjacent to and south of Lexden Road, within the grounds of the school.  Map evidence indicates that the site – an open grassed aea – had been so for some 150 years, when it apparently formed part of the rear garden of 12 Lexden Road (the former premises of the Trust).

A north-west/south-east orientated Roman road was uncovered. The depth of the Roman contexts in this area is probably due to the deposition of additional topsoil on the site in the past 80 years. The Roman road was first identified by enthusiastic schoolmaster A F Hall in the 1930s, with further excavations taking place on the site of the road in the 1950s. Two backfilled archaeological trenches from the 1950s excavations were identified. One of these trenches contained a large quantity of Roman pottery, which was presumably discarded in the trench with the backfill. A large number of Roman finds was recovered during the current work. One find of particular interest is a piece of worked fossiliferous limestone, which might be from Purbeck in Dorset and is from the outside of a building or monument, possibly a Roman tomb.

The site is located within an extensive Roman cemetery area. Large parts of this area have been excavated since the mid 19th century. The grounds of the school were trenched in the 1930s-1950s by A F Hall who discovered the course of the main Roman road to London and other Roman roads of lesser importance and also confirmed that the area was an important focus of Roman funerary activity. A number of Roman cremation burials, inhumation burials and tombstones have been discovered near the school. This includes the rectangular walled cemetery which lay immediately north of and adjacent to the Roman road, which was excavated by the Trust.