Monument record MCC481 - Roman Christian Cemetery, Butt Road, Colchester


Roman Christian Cemetery, Butt Road, recorded by excavations between 1976-8.


Grid reference TL 99291 24797 (point)
Map sheet TL92SE


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

Excavations undertaken by the Colchester Archaeological Trust 1976-89 uncovered part of a large pagan/Christian cemetery (See MCC480). A total of 669 burials were identified with the Christian phase of the cemetery, most of which were interned in wooden coffins, there were some unusual coffin substitutes (e.g. tiles, tree trunks) as well as more elaborate burials where a timber coffin enclosed an inner one of lead or was placed within a timber vault. Only a few of the graves contained grave goods. The cemetery is situated to the east of a large apsidal building, probably a church (MCC476). The starting date for the east-west orientation is taken to be AD 320-240 based on the dating of the cemetery church. The cemetery church appears to have continued in use until AD 400 and therefore the cemetery may have a similar lifespan, although dating evidence from the later graves was poor.<1>

In 1997, an evaluation trench to the rear of 47 Butt Road revealed two graves. One an east-west inhumation which shared the general orientation of the 4th century Roman cemetery, though it tended towards one end a the range of individual grave alignments. The presence of a possible second grave was indicated by a rectangular feature which had a similar fill to the above grave. Both appear to be part of the Butt Road Christian cemetery.<2><3>

In 1839, a quantity of soil was removed from the site on which was built Mill Place in Butt Road (New the New Police Station). The excavations were watched by William Wire, who communicated some of the results in a letter to Mr C.R. Smith. He states, 'There was the deposit of burnt bones simply laid upon a tile without any protection from the earth; the deposit in urns , of various shapes, patterns and sizes, in some instances accompanied by other fictile vessels; there was the deposit of the body entire, enclosed in a wooden box or coffin, as the large iron nails testified, some of them accompanied by urns'. For the remainder of the report see <4>.

Wire recovered a number of remains from excavations at the Sand Pit in Butt Road in the 1830's & 1840's, many finds are not associated with wither inhumations or cremations, however the following of Hull's Grave Groups are associated with skeletons and therefore likely to be part of the Christian Cemetery (Although they could be pagan; see MCC480): 331 (Lead Coffin), 252, 368, 420, 421, 422, 423, 425, 429, 430, 431, 447.<5>

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Serial: Crummy, Philip. 1993. CAR 9:Excavations of Roman and later cemeteries, churches and monastic sites in Colchester, 1971-8. 9. pp.55-162.
  • <2> Evaluation Report: Benfield, Stephen (CAT). 1997. AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVALUATION AT ELD LANE, COLCHESTER.. 12/97C.
  • <3> LIST: Colchester Museums. 1992-. Colchester Museum Accession Register 1992 -. 1997.77.
  • <4> Monograph: Cooper, Janet (Ed). 1994. Vol. IX, The Borough of Colchester, A History of the County of Essex. Volume IX. p.41.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Hull, M. Rex. Unknown. Inventory of Grave Groups.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Oct 17 2016 11:36AM

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