Monument record MCC411 - St Mary's at the Walls Churchyard, Church Street, Colchester


Churchyard of St Mary's at the Walls Church.


Grid reference Centred TL 99283 25056 (81m by 69m)
Map sheet TL92NE
County ESSEX


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

Graveyard of St Mary's at the Walls

Morant, who was for a time rector of this parish, records the rebuilding of the Church after the 1648 Siege and describes the pre-eminence of the churchyard, ‘the Churchyard was levelled, in the year 1714, and handsome gravel Walks made all round the Church, planted on each side with Lime trees, are very shady and pleasant in summer; And they being the best Walks about the whole Town, are much resorted to by people of the best fashion’.<3>

The graveyard is historically more important than the church itself, and 'one of the most important graveyards in the Diocese'. It is the largest in area in Colchester and is a rare example of an early 18th century planned layout.<3>

An excavation was undertaken in 1962 at a site on the corner of Crouch Street/Balkerne Lane (ECC670). Skeletons were discovered laid west-east in mortared stone and tile coffin-shaped cists. These internments may have formed part of the southern section of an earlier churchyard of St. Mary-at-the-Walls which adjoins the site to the north. Their special interest lies in the fact that rough lumps of stone and tile were used to line the graves, and in particular were placed around the skulls. This technique is indicative of a pre-Conquest date, and may well go back to the middle Saxon period (not to be confused with medieval 'lined' graves).<3><9>

It is possible that two undated, tile-lined burials (MCC1650 and MCC1651), excavated to the south also relate to this graveyard.<8>

A watching brief in 1994, during the erection of railings along the south-western boundary of the former churchyard, produced very occasional small fragments of peg tile and isolated fragments of oyster shell, but otherwise no noteworthy stratigraphy or features.<4>

Pieces of tessellated pavement have been found at considerable distances apart during grave-digging in St Mary's churchyard, indicating the remains of a substantial Roman town house on the site. These are marked on the 1876 1:500 OS map dated 1871.<5>

A chapel dedicated to St Andrew was located in the triangle formed by Church Street, Head Street and Church Walk. It was part of an estate belonging to the bishop of London in 1086.<6>

A watching brief in 1995, during the cutting of a pipe trench at St Mary's Arts Centre, did not define any significant features.<7>

A watching brief in 1999, during the installation of a new drain connection from the north side of the St Mary’s Church to an existing sewer in Church Street, exposed part of a brick and mortared rubble foundation below the north wall of St Mary’s Church. The foundation appeared to date to the 18th century rebuilding of the church.<10>

Sources/Archives (11)

  • <1> Serial: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. 1963. Vol. LIII Journal of Roman Studies. I & II. p.138.
  • <2> Serial: The Essex Society for Archaeology and History. 1968. Vol. 2 (Third Series) Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society. II. p.139.
  • <3> Monograph: Rodwell, Warwick J with Rodwell, KA. 1977. Historic Churches: a wasting asset. p.33.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1985-1995. Colchester Archaeological Trust Unpublished Archive. 4/94d.
  • <5> Cartographic materials: Ordnance Survey. 1876. 1876 OS 1:500 Maps of Colchester. 1:500.
  • <5> Cartographic materials: Ordnance Survey. c.1805. 1805 1 inch OS Maps of Colchester.
  • <6> Monograph: Cooper, Janet (Ed). 1994. Vol. IX, The Borough of Colchester, A History of the County of Essex. Volume IX. p.39.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1985-1995. Colchester Archaeological Trust Unpublished Archive. 3/95d.
  • <8> Monograph: Crummy, Philip. 1992. CAR 6: Excavations at Culver Street, the Gilberd School, and other sites in Colchester 1971-85. 6. pp.980-983.
  • <9> Monograph: Gascoyne, Adrian and Radford, David. 2013. Colchester. Fortress of the War God. An Archaeological Assessment. p.198.
  • <10> Watching Brief Report: Crossan, Carl (CAT). 1999. A Watching Brief at St Mary's Arts Centre, Church Street, Colchester. CAT Report 35.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Events/Activities (9)

Record last edited

May 31 2016 9:50AM

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