Site Event/Activity record ECC2551 - Excavation of Areas 2, 6 and 10 at the Colchester Garrison PFI, Colchester, 2003


Location Colchester Garrison PFI Site, Colchester
Grid reference Centred TL 99277 23096 (833m by 958m) (Approximate)
Map sheet TL92SE
County ESSEX



Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd


August to November 2003



The (Stage 2) excavations were carried out in 2003 by the Colchester Archaeological Trust, in association with RPS Planning Transport and Environment (RPS), on Areas 2, 6 and 10 at the Colchester Garrison PFI Site in 2003.<1> The 2005 excavation report (CAT Report 292) followed an assessment report (CAT report 270) in 2004. <2> In Area 2, there was an impressive Middle Iron Age enclosure with an internal roundhouse, at the centre of which was a pottery vessel (a placed deposit). A hollow way track led to the enclosure from the east. The enclosure was put out of use before a ditched drove way was constructed through it by the early Roman period. Area 6 was dominated by trackways and field boundaries associated with the oppidum field layout. Fringe activities from the adjacent Kirkee McMunn Barracks Roman farmstead (including burials) spilled out into this area. Area 10 contained Iron Age cremation burials and structures, and Late Iron Age or Roman trackways and field boundaries. Several key conclusions were drawn from this investigation, which will be summarised here. There was limited evidence found for habitation and farming before the Early Iron Age and it is probably that until then the area was predominantly forested. The Early Iron age burials, 4-post structures and artefacts of Area 10 suggest an intensification of settlement and farming, at least in the eastern area of the new garrison. Taken together, the Middle Iron Age moderate-status enclosed round-house of Area 2k, combined with a residual pottery scatter in Area 6 (indicating manuring and therefore arable farming), suggest that wider tracts of land were open than previously. The Area 2 enclosure is similarly dated to later Middle Iron Age round-house enclosures recently excavated at the Stanway and Abbotstone sites. Taken collectively, these enclosures suggest that the area was not a blank canvas upon which the later oppidum of Camulodunum was imposed but rather was already relatively productive and affluent. Late Iron Age settlement of the oppidum period appears to have centred on a farmstead at the Kirkee McMunn Barracks site. Widespread associated farmland is demonstrated by field boundaries and manuring pottery scatters in Areas 6, 2 and 10. These field systems were extended and augmented to form a trackway-dominated (and therefore probably predominantly pastoral landscape) following the Roman invasion and institution of the colony. The Roman farmlands appear to have been managed from a farmstead, previously identified at the site of its Iron Age predecessor at the Kirkee McMunn Barracks site. It is unclear whether this tract of land was confiscated for allocation to the colonists. There is no proper ‘centuriation’ of the landscape, whilst the continued use of the Kirkee McMunn Barracks Roman farmstead probably indicates that the area continued to be farmed by descendants of the Late Iron Age farmers. The Roman field ditches within all areas of the new garrison site had silted up by or in the 3rd century. This phenomenon corresponds with the apparent abandonment of the farmstead at the Kirkee McMunn Barracks site and the similar abandonment periods of farmsteads to the south-west and south of the Roman town, ie at the Abbotstone and Stanway sites and Area E of the ‘Urban Village’ scheme. It appears that the civil war and ‘barbarian’ raiding of the late Roman period may have caused the farmers to retreat to the safety of the town walls, thus leaving their estate ditches, if not the farmlands themselves, unattended. There is virtually no trace of 4th-century, Saxon or medieval activity within the sample excavation areas, although post-medieval ditches in Area 2 may have medieval origins. This does not necessarily mean that the landscape reverted to forest, since the gravel plateau is so well drained that drainage sitches may simply not have been required. <1>

Sources/Archives (2)

  • <1> EXCAV REPORT: Brooks, Howard (CAT) and Masefield, Robert (RPS Group). 2005. The Colchester Garrison PFI project, Colchester Essex: a report on the 2002 excavation of Areas 2, 6, 10. CAT Report 292.
  • <2> EXCAV REPORT: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd.. 2004. Colchester Garrison PFI Project. Stage 2 Archaeological Excavation Assessment Report Part 1: text and figures. CAT Report 270.

Related Monuments/Buildings (21)

  • Deep Roman inhumation burial (Element)
  • Deep Roman inhumation burial (Element)
  • Early Iron Age 4-post structure (Element)
  • Early Iron Age 4-post structure (Element)
  • Early Iron Age cremation (Element)
  • Early Iron Age cremation (Element)
  • Early Iron Age/Roman field system (Element Group)
  • Ghost evidence of Early Iron Age field system (Element)
  • Group of Neolithic/Bronze Age worked flints (Element Group)
  • Iron Age 4-post structure (Element)
  • Iron Age loom weight fragments (Find Spot)
  • Late Iron Age cremation burial (Element)
  • Late Iron Age double-ditched trackway (Element)
  • Late Iron Age/early Roman field system (Element Group)
  • Middle Iron Age curvilinear gully (Element)
  • Middle Iron Age enclosure with an internal round-house, South of Ypres Road, Colchester (Monument)
  • Middle Iron Age placed deposit (Find Spot)
  • Placed deposit of Middle Iron Age pottery (Find Spot)
  • Roman inhumation burial (Element)
  • Roman inhumation child burial (Element)
  • Roman inhumation child burial (Element)

Parent/preceding Site Events/Activities (1)

  • Evaluation of Garrison Redevelopment Project, Colchester, 2006 (Ref: ECC2659)

Record last edited

Jan 4 2017 10:09AM

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