Monument record MCC2363 - Roman street, Colchester


Roman N to S street in the colonia, defined between Insulae 10 and 11 and also between Insulae 18 and 19, and on the line of the Fortress via principalis (MCC760).


Grid reference Not recorded
Map sheet Not recorded
County ESSEX


No mapped location recorded.

Type and Period (1)

Full Description

During excavations at the Telephone Exchange site in 1966 (ECC657), the street surfaces of the fortress (MCC760) and early colonia were discovered, sealed by a thick deposit of burnt daub which had been scraped up and dumped on the road as extra make-up for a new, post-Boudican surface. The street surface of the pre-Boudiccan colonia had a timber-lined drain along its western edge (see MCC1574). The post-Boudiccan surface at this point was constructed of cobbles and the road had a large drainage ditch dug along its east side and a tile-built drain to the west (MCC1578).<1>

Excavations ahead of an extension to the Telephone Exchange at St. Martin's House (ECC872) revealed street metalling only 1 ft. beneath the surface and a full section was obtained. The road was nearly 6ft thick and consisted of a sequence of 26 layers many of which represented road surfaces. The later levels of the street ran between two stone walls of some 25 ft apart. The line of the street had remained unaltered from the earliest phase which was laid without bedding or foundation. This earliest phase of the road had two surfaces covered by Boudican destruction debris. This burnt material was then built over by the subsequent roads which consisted of alternate layers of gravel and mud. There appeared to have been a footway (MCC1973) and wooden water pipe (MCC1977) on the west side.<2>

A trial trench excavated on the site of a new NCP car park at Nunn’s Road (ECC940), revealed street metalling of a N to S Roman street between Insulae 2 and 3.<3>

Excavations on the site of the Telephone Exchange Managers Office in 1963 (ECC950) also revealed the road where it was flanked on its west side buy a north-south drain (MCC1578) and masonry remains.<4><5>

Excavations in the garden of 'Logarth' in 1963/4 also revealed the north-south street with a deep drain 'similar to that along the east side of Insula 7'. Between the drain and a building (MCC2136) was an open area which may have been occupied by a footway or veranda.<6>

A trench cut in 1920 in Mr Frost's garden 100 yards east of North Hill revealed a hard gravelled surface of a street (ECC956) although a plan of remains found in the same area by Mr. Winckles in 1939 suggests that the 100 yards may have been an approximation or that the street was in fact part of a gravelled path or footway. Winckles recorded the street as being only 7ft wide but Hull noted that it may have been shown to be wider had he dug deeper (see ECC954).<7>

Excavation of 25 trenches in the back garden of No. 10 North Hill. The excavations revealed the remains of at least one Roman house including red tessellated pavements and one mosaic, at a depth of 4ft together with a gravel metalling for a Roman road and footway.<8><9><10>

The street was also excavated at 147-151 High Street (Areas A and B) in 2014, between Insulae 18 and 19. In Area A, when the via principalis (MCC760) was incorporated into the street grid of the Period 2 colony, layers of stony-sand make-up (AL57-AL59, AL114) were deposited on its surface before a new gravel layer was laid (AL56 and AL106). These layers were relatively thin in Area A because of the proximity of the deposits to the eastern margin of the street. The east edge of the Period 2 street was demarcated by a N to S timber drain (AF80/AF145). The top of the square-cut trench for the drain corresponded with the Period 2 street surface (AL56/AL114) and cut through the earlier layers of the via principalis. It is possible that the timber drain replaced an earlier drain or ditch (AF81) located slightly to the west of AF80. However, the cut for AF81 was lower than the cut for the timber drain and did not correspond with a metalled street surface. A narrow gully in the base of the drain (AF146) may have also been the bottom of an earlier drainage ditch, or possibly the remains of a Period 1 wheel rut. The roadside drain (AF80/AF145) was burnt during the fire of AD 61 (Period 2a) and part of the timber-lining had been preserved as charred wood on the base and sides of the trench. The burnt drain had subsequently been infilled with roof tile (AL55, AL105), which had fallen from a building that flanked the eastern edge of the street (Boudiccan destruction debris). Further to the north in Area B, the remains of the N to S Roman street (BF68) was also encountered. A trench was hand-excavated through the Roman street in a location where minimal damage had been caused by medieval and post-medieval pit digging. This afforded us the opportunity to record the sequence of resurfacing events which had occurred during the Roman period (Phases 1-6). Constructed from compacted gravel layers interspersed with mixed layers of stone, sand and clay make-up, the street was c.1.1m thick in the centre. The earliest metalled surface in the street sequence, overlaid a series of layers of stony sand make-up that was c.0.12m thick. This surface is the Period 1 via principalis (Phase 1). The make-up material had been laid directly onto the natural sand (BL32), indicating that the topsoil had been removed from the area of the street prior to its construction. The second compacted gravel street layer was notably thicker than the first (c.0.2m) and once again overlay a layer of stony-sand make-up c.0.15m thick (Phase 2). This surface was covered by redeposited Boudiccan destruction debris from the fire of AD 61 and therefore must have been laid before this date. Having been laid as part of the work to convert the Roman fortress into a civilian town, it probably dates to early on in Period 2. As in Area A, the remains of a collapsed tiled roof (BL16a) from a building burnt during the fire of AD 61, was identified lying on the surface of the Period 2 street (Phase 2) close to its eastern margin. The roof tiles had also been covered over with the debris cleared from the remains of the building (BL16b). Sometime after the fire of AD 61, layers of make-up were spread over the Period 3a Boudiccan destruction debris. The street was then resurfaced with a new layer of gravel up to 0.2m thick (Phase 3). Unlike the eastern side of the Roman street in Area A, there was no conclusive evidence of a timber-lined drain along its western edge in Area B. However, a possible roadside ditch (BF97) was identified near the centre of the excavation area (MCC10180). Two further phases of metalling were laid on the street during the remainder of the Roman period (Phases 4 and 5). It was not possible to accurately date these phases, although the Phase 5 metalling must have been laid before the early/mid 4th century, based on the dating of a water-pipe trench (BF76/BF121; MCC10179) dug into the uppermost surface of the street; a sherd of a late shell-tempered jar recovered from the backfill of the trench indicates that the water-pipe was laid no earlier than c.AD 325-350. The water pipe trench was aligned slightly off of north-south and was located c.1.3m east of the centre of the street. Also cut into the uppermost surface of the Roman street was post-hole BF107, which contained eight pieces of Purbeck marble that had been used as packing around the post. A late Roman date is suggested for this post-hole by the presence of 3rd or 4th century pottery in the fill.<11>

Sources/Archives (11)

  • <1> Article in serial: Dunnett, B.R.K.. 1971. Excavations in Colchester, 1964-8. Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society Vol. 3, Part 1. p.12.
  • <2> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. pp.70-72.
  • <3> Article in serial: Dunnett, B.R.K.. 1966. Excavations on North Hill, Colchester. 123:1. p.29.
  • <4> Article in serial: Dunnett, B.R.K.. 1966. Excavations on North Hill, Colchester. 123:1. p.28.
  • <5> DRAWING - PLAN: Blythe, John. 1964. Telephone Managers Office Site Excavations 1963-4.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Unknown. 1964. Colchester SMR file: 'Logarth, 1963/4'.
  • <7> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. pp.103-104.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Hull, M. Rex. Roman Colchester: Walls and Within. Insula 11 (Plans).
  • <9> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. p.104.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Hull, M. R.. 1937/1952. SMR file: 10 North Hill excavation.
  • <11> EXCAV REPORT: Wightman, Adam and Crummy, Philip. 2017. An archaeological excavation and watching brief at Fenwick Colchester (formerly Williams & Griffin), 147-151 High Street, Colchester, Essex. CAT Report 1150, p.13 & p.23.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (6)

Related Events/Activities (7)

Record last edited

Oct 5 2017 2:54PM

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