Monument record MCC2060 - Roman building, North Hill, Colchester


Roman large masonry building discovered during excavations at the NCP Car Park site on North Hill, 1965.


Grid reference TL 99458 25328 (point)
Map sheet TL92NE
County ESSEX


Type and Period (3)

Full Description

A large masonry Roman building situated in the south-east corner of Insula 10.

The building completely replaced the earlier building on the site (MCC2059). The wall trenches for the new house were shallower than those of the previous building and ran alongside them instead of on the same line. The building extended further west than any of the other earlier buildings. Its interior was divided into a number of box-like small rooms with mortar floors. The remaining yard area from the previous building was confined to the north where it was surfaced with clay. The pottery associated with this building could not support a date for the house later than c.AD 100-130.

In a second phase this building was extended further to the west and also to the north beyond the excavated area. A series of more spacious rooms was laid out, connected in the north by a corridor. North of the excavated area on the southern terrace, remains of the building were picked up in the contractors stanchion holes and trenches, which were closely watched, so that the building could be planned reasonably accurately. Here the masonry building overlay an earlier structural phase overlying a thick layer of burnt daub on clay floors. The northern, excavated, wing of the building stood 4.5 ft. higher than the remains to the south and they 'must have been connected by a flight steps'. The two wings were divided by a massive retaining wall as evidenced by a large robber trench.

Overall the building seemed to have consisted of two ranges of rooms along the north-south and east-west streets, connected by corridors. In the angle enclosed by these rooms, instead of a courtyard, were two blocks of rooms, the western with tessellated floors and 'presumably lighted by clerestory windows'. North of the whole complex was a courtyard. 'It may be that the mosaics under Crispin Court (MCC870) and No.5 North Hill also belonged to this building.'

All the floors of the southern, excavated, range of rooms were tessellated and three of them contained mosaic panels. Pottery from the floors of the rooms dated from between the Antonine period and the early 4th century A.D. Rubbish pits dug into one of the mosaics and containing 4th century pottery suggested that the house may have been derelict by that time. Painted plaster indicated that the walls were building and tiles in the destruction debris suggest that the building was roofed with them. A small pit dug into the northern corridor contained pottery from the early Anglo-Saxon period (MCC2062).<1>

Excavations (ECC950) and observations (ECC141) by the Archaeological Research Group ahead of the construction of a new Telephone Exchange in 1963/4 revealed masonry foundations to the west of the north-south street (MCC760) and it appears from the plan that these belong to the same building found in the 1965 excavations for the NCP car park (ECC949).<2><3>

William Wire's diary records 'Mr Smith, fruiterer, North Hill, informs me that he has discovered a tessellated pavement in the garden in his occupation behind the 'Chaise and Pair', North Hill.' Likely to have been a part of MCC2060.<4><5>

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Article in serial: Dunnett, B.R.K.. 1966. Excavations on North Hill, Colchester. 123:1. pp.36-38.
  • <2> Article in serial: Dunnett, B.R.K.. 1966. Excavations on North Hill, Colchester. 123:1. p.27.
  • <3> DRAWING - PLAN: Blythe, John. 1964. Telephone Managers Office Site Excavations 1963-4.
  • <4> DIARY: Wire, William. 1842-1857. Journal of William Wire. 3/5/1855.
  • <5> Monograph: Hull, M.R.. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. Insula 10, No14, p97.

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Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

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Record last edited

Dec 13 2016 2:25PM

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