Monument record MCC1320 - Castle Inner Bailey Ditch, Colchester

Summary

The inner bailey ditch of Colchester Castle.

Location

Grid reference TL 99875 25423 (point)
Map sheet TL92NE
County ESSEX
Non Parish Area COLCHESTER, COLCHESTER, ESSEX

Map

Type and Period (1)

Full Description

The ditch around the Castle bailey rampart, constructed in 11th century.

During the excavation of a pipe trench in Castle Park (ECC375), 1983, the Castle's inner bailey ditch was traced in two main lengths for a total of just over 100m. In the more northerly length of approximately 43m, its eastern edge was located in two places. The edge had a fairly gentle sloping profile, but the ditch could not be excavated beyond a depth of 2.75m.<1>

During excavations in 1950 (ECC932) the inner edge of the ditch was located where it had removed the metalling of two Roman streets.<2><10>

In September 1964, demolition of 5 Maidenburgh Street prior to use of the site as a car park made an area of some 38m x 10m available for excavation, which was undertaken for 6 weeks in September - October 1964 under the direction of B.R.K. Niblett (nee Dunnett) for the Colchester Excavation Committee. Two trenches were cut across the line of the Norman rampart which crossed the east end of the site. Beneath 0.6m of modern rubble and garden soil a series of tips of sand, gravel and Roman tile and mortar was encountered. The maximum thickness of the deposit was 0.6m which was felt to represent the remnant of the rampart. Immediately in front of the rampart on the edge of the bailey ditch was an inhumation burial, possibly of Saxon date. Several loose bones indicated the possibility of other burials in the area. The eastern lip of the Norman bailey ditch was also located, immediately in front of the rampart.<3>

In 1969 a warehouse at the South end of Ryegate road was demolished prior to the construction of a new Methodists Church. Permission was obtained for four trenches to be excavated to a depth of 2m, located so as not to affect the foundations. This limitation to the area excavated meant that only 'scattered glimpses' of the underlying remains could be obtained. The east (inner) lip of the bailey trench was revealed as was the western edge. Part of the bailey rampart was also excavated and the foundations of a north-south Tudor brick wall were discovered cut into the rampart. The lower levels of the rampart remained intact to a depth of up to 1m. Beneath the rampart was a layer of black humic soil cut by a straight-sided feature which resembled a small robber trench.<4>

Antiquarian Philip Morant says 'The (castle) bailey was formerly encompassed on the south and west sides by a strong wall, in which were two gates. That on the south was the chief. This wall was taken down by Robt. Norfolk Esq. who erected in the room of it a range of houses now standing in the High Street. The west wall reached as far as the east side of St Helen's Lane. On the north and east sides the castle was secured by a deep ditch and strong rampart of earth... This rampart is thrown upon a wall that formerly encompassed either the Castle or Palace of Coel, on the site whereof the Castle is built; the buttress and other parts of which wall have lately been discovered'.<5><6>

see also ECC666, ECC653, ECC808.

A watching brief was held during the excavation of a trench for a new gas main which was dug from south to north running from Cowdray Crescent through the Castle Park and into the east side of the Castle. The trench was comparatively shallow, averaging 0.8m deep and 0.45m wide. The first part of the trench by the Castle Park gates was observed by Denis Gamble (Colchester Borough Council engineer) who reported nothing of significance showing in the sides. Possible natural sand was observed at a depth of 0.5m approximately 12.5 to 14m from the wall by the gates and this may indicate the western limit of the Bailey ditch. Elsewhere the trench fill was uniformly a mixed topsoil layer of possible post-medieval date. The stretch of pipe trench cutting the path up to the south-west corner of the castle consisted largely of modern make-up with fine greyish brown sandy loam with layers of brick rubble and some sand. Further north the trench cut a thin layer of 'dark earth' in places reaching natural sand. A large medieval? pit, or possibly a robber trench, cut natural sand. The short east-west length of pipe trench leading to the castle was only 0.5m deep and consisted solely of topsoil.<7>

Observation of trial holes dug in connection with the erection of the War Memorial showed that the castle ditch turned sharply northwards just east of the 1921-22 excavations.<8>

In 1979 a trial trench was dug for housing in Ryegate Road by Colchester Borough Council (see ECC2120) in which the western side of the Norman Bailey Ditch was observed.<9>

Sources/Archives (10)

  • <1> Monograph: Crummy, Philip. 1992. CAR 6: Excavations at Culver Street, the Gilberd School, and other sites in Colchester 1971-85. 6. p.372.
  • <2> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. pp.180-183.
  • <3> Article in serial: Drury, P. J.. 1983. 'Aspects of the origins and development of Colchester Castle'. 139. pp.342-346.
  • <4> Article in serial: Drury, P. J.. 1983. 'Aspects of the origins and development of Colchester Castle'. 139. pp.346-347.
  • <5> DIARY: Wire, William. 1842-1857. Journal of William Wire. 3/5/1855.
  • <6> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. Insula 10, No 14 p.97.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1985-1995. Colchester Archaeological Trust Unpublished Archive. 12/89.
  • <8> Article in serial: Drury, P. J.. 1983. 'Aspects of the origins and development of Colchester Castle'. 139. p.342.
  • <9> Article in serial: Drury, P. J.. 1983. 'Aspects of the origins and development of Colchester Castle'. 139. pp.345-346.
  • <10> Serial: Society of Antiquaries. 1962. Vol. XLII Antiquaries Journal. Volume 42, Issue 1. pp.57-61.

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Record last edited

Oct 10 2016 12:10PM

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