Monument record MCC2150 - Roman cremation cemetery, Garrison Sports Field, Colchester


Roman cremation cemetery, Garrison Sports Field, recorded in 1925, and with excavations in 2000 and 2007.


Grid reference TL 99386 24338 (point)
Map sheet TL92SE
County ESSEX


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

An extensive Roman cremation cemetery at the Garrison Sports Field, Abbey Field, although the full extent of the cemetery (or cemeteries) is not clearly defined.

In 1925, P.G. Laver recorded around 28 burials located directly west of the garrison football field and SE of the circular road north.<1><2> A map in the Laver Papers plots these although not to scale and a traced copy of this is bound into Hulls notes.<3> The location appears to be that of the current garrison sports stadium, the burials are spread out across the North West half of the plot.

Tall grey jar narrow mouth, containing calcined bones, with a deep bowl of grey ware as cover. The was deposited in a cist formed of pieces of Kentish ragstone. Found on September 7th on the Garrison Sports Ground.<4> Hull's Grave Group 289.<5>

'Abbey Field' has yielded numerous cremation burials over the years. Unfortunately, many burials in the Museum are recorded as from simply from 'Abbey Field'. As the field was encroached upon by the Barracks in 1873-4 and 1903-4 (and numerous other minor buildings), it is not possible to identify the specific location of individual burials with accuracy. The following Roman burials are recorded as from 'Abbey Field' without reference to 'barracks', 'new barracks' or 'barrack field' : 146, 147, 150, 151, 202, 208, 209, 210, 213, 237, 307, 310, 317, 321, 391, 394, 403, 407, 408, 411, 412, 417, 467, 526, 527, 529, 530, 533, 568.<6>

In 2000, excavation for an all-weather hockey pitch (immediately to the north of the athletics track) recovered 78 cremation burials and cremation-related features (ECC2939).<7> This work followed a trial-trenched evaluation in the same year.<8>

In 2007 (ECC2808), on the site of a new car-park at the Abbey Field (Circular Road East), on the south-western side of the Colchester Garrison athletics track, five urned and two unurned Roman cremation burials (or deposits of pyre debris) were defined to the east of a double-ditched Roman track or droveway, c.20m wide, aligned N to S. Four of the burials contained deposits other than pottery vessels. Of the four, only two can be dated: F14 contained a locally-made lamp of pre-Boudican date and a copper-alloy spoon, and F9 contained fragments of a wooden box deposited sometime in the late 1st or 2nd century. These deposits are typical for the period. The closely datable pottery from the cremation burials is mostly of 1st- to mid 2nd-century date, although the date range of some of the pots extends to the late 2nd-3rd/early 4th century. The cremation urn from the burial F12 dates from after the early 2nd century and was current until the late 3rd/early 4th century. Also, although the cremation urn from F9 is dated to the 1st-early 2nd century, a single sherd of samian from the fill is of early to mid 2nd-century date. Human bone was extracted from five of the burials, F8-F9 and F13-F15. The remains from the site were classified as one probable male (F8), one female (F14), one probable female (F9) and two individuals of uncertain sex.<9> This followed an evaluation of the site in 2006.<10>

Also in 2007 (ECC2987), in advance of works to upgrade Circular Road, North, a further 20 Roman burials were excavated. Most of the burials lay to the south-west of the Roman Circus, and included a bustum (a bustum burial is one where the remains of the body were left undisturbed in the ashes of the funeral pyre) and a deep inhumation within a ring-ditch.<11>

In 2004, 67 Roman burials and burial-related features were recorded to the east of the Arena, within Area C2, c.80m east of the sports ground (ECC2980). These features consisted of 26 inhumation burials (including a burial within a lead coffin), 22 unurned cremation burials, 11 urned cremation burials, 5 burial pits containing pyre debris, 2 boxed cremation burials and one disturbed unurned/urned cremation burial. One of the probable unurned cremation burials was recovered from machine spoil. A disturbed inhumation also contained a quantity of cremated bone. The burials ranged in date from the early-mid 2nd to the 4th century, with the majority of the closely dated graves dating from the mid/late 3rd to the 4th century. The 67 burials and related features from the site were divided into two distinct burial plots, which were delineated by two boundary ditches and a droveway or track. Unusually, eight of the cremation burials from Burial Plot 1 were associated with barrows. These generally consisted of a central burial enclosed by a ring ditch, the up-cast from which would presumably have formed form a visible mound of earth over the burial. One of the unurned cremation burials and the two inhumation burials from Burial Plot 2 were associated with a mausoleum.<12>

A trial-trenched evaluation of the Arena site in 2015 defined 11 Roman (probable) inhumations (ECC2907).<13>

Sources/Archives (13)

  • <1> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. p.296, No 200.
  • <2> Index: Essex County Council. 1972. Colchester SMR (computer). SMR13199.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Hull, M. Rex. Roman Colchester II: Extramural and Walls. II. pink map AF16.
  • <4> Serial: Colchester Museums. 1933. Colchester Museum Reports 1925-1933. 1925-1933. p.36, 1932.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Hull, M. Rex. Unknown. Inventory of Grave Groups. No 289.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Hull, M. Rex. Unknown. Inventory of Grave Groups.
  • <7> EXCAV REPORT: Crossan, Carl (CAT). 2001. Archaeological excavations at the Garrison sports pitch, Circular Road North, Colchester, Essex (Abbey Field) February-March 2000. CAT Report 138.
  • <8> Evaluation Report: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd.. 2000. An archaeological evaluation at the Garrison Sports Ground, Circular Road North, Colchester. CAT rep 54. CAT Report 54.
  • <9> EXCAV REPORT: Brooks, H., Holloway, B. (CAT) and Masefield, R. (RPS Group). 2007. An archaeological excavation on the Abbey Field car-park, Circular Road North, Colchester, Essex January-February 2007. CAT Report 424.
  • <10> Evaluation Report: Holloway, Ben (CAT). 2006. An archaeological evaluation for a new car park on the Abbey Field, south of Circular Road North, Colchester, Essex, March 2006. CAT Report 358.
  • <11> EXCAV REPORT: Pooley, L., Crummy, P., Shimmin, D., Brooks., H., Holloway, B. and Masefield, R.. 2011. Archaeological investigations on the 'Alienated Land', Colchester Garrison, Colchester, Essex. CAT Report 412, pp.1102-1205.
  • <12> EXCAV REPORT: Pooley, L., Crummy, P., Shimmin, D., Brooks., H., Holloway, B. and Masefield, R.. 2011. Archaeological investigations on the 'Alienated Land', Colchester Garrison, Colchester, Essex. CAT Report 412, pp.22-36.
  • <13> Evaluation Report: Baister, M (CAT). 2015. Archaeological trial trenching at the Arena Leisure Centre, Circular Road East, Colchester, Essex. Phase 1a: pre-determination trenching. CAT Report 843.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Record last edited

Oct 26 2016 11:08AM

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