Monument record MCC1170 - Rampart of the Roman town walls, Colchester

Summary

Interior rampart of Roman town walls (MCC859), which appears to have been added in the late 2nd century AD and built in part from waste material and building debris. An upstanding section of the rampart lies to the south of the Balkerne Gate (west of the Mercury Theatre); a trench was excavated through this section in 1967.

Location

Grid reference Centred TL 9962 2530 (768m by 508m)
Map sheet TL92NE
County ESSEX
Non Parish Area COLCHESTER, COLCHESTER, ESSEX

Map

Type and Period (1)

Full Description

A watching brief was maintained during the laying of a new sewerage system by Colchester Borough Council. The trench for the new pipe was cut to a depth of 2.5m and passed along the eastern boundary of the bowling green, beneath the town wall and along Castle Road and Roman Road. Where it passed beneath the town wall it was set in a trench bored underneath it. Thus a deep cutting had to be made through the rampart.<1>

A watching brief was held during the redevelopment of a site for small shop units. Two stanchion holes and a foundation trench were inspected. The largest of the stanchion holes was dug by machine and provided a section across the Roman rampart behind the town wall. This showed that the rampart was multi-phased and included at least one temporary street, and was predated by a substantial metalled street.<2>

A section was cut across the Roman defences during excavations at St Mary's Rectory in 1967 (ECC661). The trench cut through the rampart and revealed that the lowest layer consisted of tips of dark loam and silt. The main body of the rampart was made up of a 'homogenous deposit of quite stiff clay with fragments of tile and small pebbles'.<3>

A watching brief was held during the laying of a trench along Ryegate Road. The trench was dug through the surface of the stump of Roman wall under the modern street. Only the southern face of the wall was detected. Part of the rampart appeared to be in situ to the south of it but elsewhere the rampart was not apparent, probably because it had been destroyed by later trenches and other features.<4>

Excavations by B.P. Blake in the south-west corner of the town (ECC670) showed that the 17th century destruction of the town wall had left little of its bank intact.<5>

A watching brief was held during the excavation of a trench, c.0.6m deep, for a new gas main along Trinity Street and Sir Isaacs Walk. The soil within the trench in Sir Isaacs Walk contained a high proportion of yellowish brown sandy loam and gravel which was probably backfill from the Roman rampart behind the town wall.<6>

In 1925, a section was cut through the rampart to the east of Roman Road by G. Farmer and E.J. Rudsdale, whilst still at school (ECC785). The rampart consisted of four distinct layers and was 14ft. wide (later 23ft.) and 3ft. 5in. high.<7>

The town ramparts were examined by Hull during excavations in 1931 (ECC812). A complete section was dug 20ft. to the east of Bastion V, in rhe area of the Queen Street bus depot. The lowest part of the rampart consisted of a flat-topped bank of grey clay, 3ft. thick and extending back 42ft. from the rear face of the Roman wall. Beneath the clay was a 7in. thick burnt layer which may have been the Boudican destruction levels although it was felt by the excavators to be later. Above the burnt layer was a composite bank of sand which ran back to a drain (MCC1840) at the tail of the rampart.<8>

A trench was cut at right angles to the town wall at a point 70ft. south of the centre line of Bastion 1 in the garden of East Hill House in 1948 (ECC864). The point was selected in an attempt to avoid earlier excavations by P.G. Laver, and to investigate the possibility of an internal tower on the site. The work was undertaken by volunteers, in particular Lt-Col. Appleby. The Roman rampart was uncovered.<9>

A section was cut through the rampart within the grounds of the Sixth Form College, North Hill, in 1951 (ECC933). The make-up of the bank was composed largely of layers of loosely packed sand and gravel, with the exception of two layers which contained occupation material. The excavators felt that the unweathered appearance of the wall meant that the rampart and wall had been built at the same time.<10>

Two trenches were excavated against the inner side of the wall at Queen Street Bus Station in 1990 (ECC1952). Trench 2, 2.9m x 1.2m in size, adjoined the north side of the town wall at a point 32m east of Bastion V. The excavation was extended to a depth of 1.4m (21.2m OD) revealing the wall's north face in an excellent state of preservation, although the earth rampart was in poor condition. Trench 3, 3.2m x 1m in size, adjoined the north side of the town wall at a point 97.5m east of Bastion V. The north face of the wall was revealed and excavation ceased at a depth of 1.4m (20.02m OD). Immediately north of the wall, modern fill was found to extend to within 50mm of the Roman rampart, which was uncovered at a depth of 1.95m (20.47m OD).<11>

The part of the rampart within the Upper Castle Park was cleared away in and after 1855-8, when a cutting was being made for a pathway along the south face of the wall.<12>

At 11 Short Wyre Street, a section of the rampart was examined in 1988 (ECC2392). An area c.2.0m x 5.0m to the west of the cellar survived to just below street level, approximately level with the top of the remaining Roman town wall on the east side of the cellar. This indicates a total depth of surviving deposits here of approximately 1.8m to level with the base of the wall offset. Two trenches were excavated in advance of construction groundworks on this area, presumably on the site of stanchion bases. Trench 1 (1.8m x 1.0m in size), partly straddled the inner wall facer. Apart from a robber trench along the line of the inner wall face and a small modern pit, the trench contained only deposits of material forming part of the Roman wall rampart. The trench was excavated to a depth of 1.1m into the rampart, and as the stratigraphy was difficult to follow the excavation was carried out in 9 spits each approximately 10cm deep.<13>

See Balkerne Lane?
See CAR 6 pp.62-4
See ECC375 in CAR6 p.371

Sources/Archives (13)

  • <1> Monograph: Crummy, Philip. 1992. CAR 6: Excavations at Culver Street, the Gilberd School, and other sites in Colchester 1971-85. 6. pp.821-822.
  • <2> Monograph: Crummy, Philip. 1992. CAR 6: Excavations at Culver Street, the Gilberd School, and other sites in Colchester 1971-85. 6. pp.922-923.
  • <3> Article in serial: Dunnett, B.R.K.. 1971. Excavations in Colchester, 1964-8. Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society Vol. 3, Part 1. pp.68-69.
  • <4> Monograph: Crummy, Philip. 1992. CAR 6: Excavations at Culver Street, the Gilberd School, and other sites in Colchester 1971-85. 6. pp.1000-1002.
  • <5> Serial: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. 1963. Vol. LIII Journal of Roman Studies. I & II. p.138.
  • <6> Monograph: Crummy, Philip. 1992. CAR 6: Excavations at Culver Street, the Gilberd School, and other sites in Colchester 1971-85. 6. p.384.
  • <7> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. pp.42-43.
  • <8> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. p.54.
  • <9> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. pp.46-48.
  • <10> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. pp.25-27.
  • <11> Evaluation Report: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd.. 1990. The Archaeological Aspects of a Redevelopment of the Queen Street Bus Station and Car Park.
  • <12> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. p.36.
  • <13> EXCAV REPORT: Benfield, S. (CAT). 2001. Excavation and recording at 11 Short Wyre Street, Colchester, Essex, in 1998. p.7.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (15)

Record last edited

Dec 8 2016 2:04PM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.