Element Group record MCC473 - Roman features, Balkerne Lane, Colchester


Roman features discovered at the Balkerne Lane excavations between 1973-6.


Grid reference TL 99189 25136 (point)
Map sheet TL92NE
1848 Parish ST PETER


Type and Period (11)

Full Description

During the excavations at Balkerne Lane between 1973 and 1976 (ECC332), numerous Roman features were found in addition to the main buildings, streets and other structures.

Those features relating to the initial military occupation of the area and the legionary fortress (MCC477) included several pits possibly from clearance work at the time of the fortress construction, during which time the topsoil appears to have been stripped from most of the site. These pits were sealed by thin gravel metalling which formed the southern side of the street (MCC475) leading from the fortresses west gate. The street was overlain by a thin layer of sandy silt cut by many wheel ruts. Several shallow slots sealed by a later building were also thought to belong to this period although their purpose is unknown.

Several features were recovered which appeared to date from the time soon after the military abandonment of the Legionary fortress. These included a series of four pits and scoops dug along the western edge of the Legionary ditch (MCC478) at the rear of MCC486 which contained large quantities of dumped material derived form that building. Ten metres to the south of MCC486 were two hearths (ELM1175 & 1174) and a few less well defined burnt patches. These appeared to be the remains of an unenclosed iron-working site on the edge of the fortress ditch.

Two features which appeared to have post-dated the demolition of MCC486 were probable gullies which may have led into the military ditch (MCC478).

Following the destruction of the Legionary rampart and the levelling of the military ditch, five or six property plots were set out to the south of the main Colchester to London Road (MCC475) as evidenced by the boundary features of strip-houses which fronted onto it during this period (see MCC493, MCC494 -MCC496) together with their re-occupation after the Boudican destruction (see MCC543 - MCC546).

To the south of these strip-houses the remains of four ovens were found, only one of which could be ascribed with any certainty to an adjacent building (MCC543) (The others MCC2552 - MCC2554). Within the area of this building were located a large number of pits and slots which appeared to belong to buildings which post-dated MCC543 and lasted until c.AD 150. The slots were at right angles to the street and were probably for ground-plates.

The possible aqueduct (MCC549) was set within its own plot defined to the north and south by fences and ditches which were probably of several phases. The fences were indicated by irregular rows of small pits. This plot was set at the rear of the plots which fronted onto the main street (MCC475) and partially overlay the site of a demolished building (MCC547). After its demolition the site of this building was used as an area for dumping soil, sand and household debris. This material was cut by the post pits of the aqueduct, but continued to be dumped following the aqueducts disuse.

During the second and third centuries AD the plots were again reoccupied with another set of strip-houses (see MCC573, MCC574, MCC587, MCC588). To the south of MCC573 were some ovens, pits and possible post-pits and stake holes. These cut through the demolition debris sealing the floors of MCC573 and seemed to have been associated with a variety of structures probably of different phases. Within the possible post-pits was a clear line which suggested the presence of a boundary fence or timber wall. A timber-lined pit was recovered within the area of the allotments (MCC667).

Substantial deposits of oysters up to 0.5m deep lay on either side of the main London to Colchester road (MCC475) with the main phase of dumping having taken place during the second century. The oyster layers appeared to be kitchen waste derived from a series of small deposits tipped over a period of time.

The street (MCC616) which lay towards the south end of the site contained some east-west wheel ruts cut into the earliest metalled surface and contemporary with these were some small features which were probably post-pits for a fence or sequence of fences along the southern boundary of one of the main property plots to the north. A dog had been buried in a grave placed alongside this southern boundary. Several small pits and slots were found to have been cut into the street, probably after it had gone out of use. An oven was recovered to the south-west of the street.

During the 4th century significant activity was recorded from two property plots to the north of the main Colchester to London road (MCC475). This took the form of pits, post-pits and stake holes some of which were indicative of 'a modest structure of some kind'. South of the road there was much less activity although the south end of the western plot became an area for dumping and sand quarrying (evidenced by large numbers of extraction pits) including one large extraction pit which cut the remains of a building (MCC593)and another which contained an inhumation burial in a lead coffin (see MCC635). In addition to this the site of another possible burial was found near the top of the late Roman town ditch where a pit 2.2m deep was the shape and size of a grave. No bones were recovered from it though.

The residual remains of at least nine infant burials (probably Roman) were discovered in addition to MCC591, MCC592, MCC732, within post-Roman contexts.<1>

Sources/Archives (1)

  • <1> Serial: Crummy, Philip. 1981. CAR 3: Excavations at Lion Walk, Balkerne Lane and Middleborough, Colchester, Essex. 3. pp.93-154.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Oct 19 2016 12:11PM

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