Monument record MCC368 - Roman building with central courtyard (CAT Building 70), Middleborough, Colchester


Roman building with a central courtyard, and three mosaic floors, investigated during excavations at Middleborough (Cattle Market) in 1979, adjacent to the Roman north gate.


Grid reference Centred TL 99338 25532 (52m by 30m)
Map sheet TL92NE
1848 Parish ST PETER


Type and Period (4)

Full Description

During the excavations at the Middleborough Site in 1979 (ECC335), a large Period 3 (c.AD 150-300) Roman house was excavated, which consisted of rooms (with mosaic floors) arranged around at least three sides of a central courtyard and fronting a street on its east side (CAT Building 70). The house was 45m long. Internally, the rooms contained a workshop or shop, three mosaic pavements, tessellated pavements, mortar and daub floors. Other internal features included hearths, pits, ovens and a possible altar. The south side of the building was unavailable for excavation, and extended outside, and to the south of, the excavation area (below Balkerne Lane). The house appeared to have undergone two phases of development.

Prior to construction, the area to the east of MCC367 was raised with large quantities of dumped material in attempt to level the site for the new building. The make-up consisted of sandy gravels and loamy clay. In places the natural (brown/grey silts) had steps cut into it showing that some of the topsoil had been removed prior to building, perhaps because it was unsuitable for construction.

The building's foundations were well-built and constructed in roughly coursed septaria set in mortar. Spits of mortar extended into the make-up material and showed that the foundations were raised in conjunction with the dumping activities. As a result of the dumping of make-up on the building's site, the area of MCC368 was significantly higher than the surrounding area with a 0.7m difference between the floors of this building and those of MCC397 (CAT Building 71).

The building's superstructure was probably timber-framed, indicated by a wood grain impression set in the top of one wall foundation. The demolition debris which covered the floors of the building consisted of sandy clay with fragments of wall plaster indicating a daub component to the superstructure with at least some of the rooms plastered and painted.

During the first phase of the building, it incorporated the southern wall of MCC367 (demolished CAT Building 69) and may have included others. During this period the building had at least one mosaic floor (in Room 4). Two rooms which faced the street (MCC417) on the building's east side appeared to have been for commercial or utilitarian use and may have been a shop or workshop. The building's second phase included the addition of an apse to Room 6 (the NW corner of the building) and the laying of mosaics in Rooms 6 and 7 ('The Mosaic of the Wrestling Cupids in Room 7). Room 7 may also have had a stone alter added to it at a later date (CAR 3, p.165).

Room 1 was not fully excavated. Room 2 included four phases of activity including an oven in phase 1, pitting and a probable oven during phase 2, one or more hearths in phase 3, and in the final phase a new floor was laid and a square foundation of unknown purpose was built in the centre of the room. This was robbed during the early medieval period (ELM49). Room 3 had a tessellated pavement. Room 4 had a small mosaic pavement with a plain red tessellated border but most of it had been destroyed. Room 5 had been largely destroyed by extensive post-Roman pits. Room 8 was only partly uncovered but included quarter round moulding on a mortar floor.

Along the street frontage (MCC417) was a veranda or portico with a floor of compact gravel. A second passage was situated along the north side of the courtyard and three further cross passages with tessellated floors were located within the building.

During the demolition of the building, in c.AD 300, it would appear that the possible altar in Room 7 was removed and the tesserae of the Room 6 mosaic were scraped off their base. This, together with the absence of roof tiles of any quantity.<1>

Sources/Archives (1)

  • <1> Serial: Crummy, Philip. 1981. CAR 3: Excavations at Lion Walk, Balkerne Lane and Middleborough, Colchester, Essex. 3. pp.159-174 & Figs. 144, 146, 152-153.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Oct 19 2016 8:01AM

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.