Monument record MCC7470 - Gosbecks Iron Age and Romano-British site.


An area of extensive cropmarks enclosed by the curving dykes following the Gosbecks contours.


Grid reference Centred TL 968 225 (2007m by 1834m)
Map sheet TL92SE


Type and Period (7)

Full Description

An area of extensive cropmarks enclosed by the curving dykes following the Gosbecks contours. Complex field system and roads visible on numerous aerial photographs. Partially excavated - the temple and theatre, by Hawkes and Dunnett. <1>
The Gosbecks site has a complex history of use stretching from the pre-Roman Iron Age through the C4 AD. Only limited excavation has been undertaken, mainly in the central area, but the archaeology of the site has been identified and interpreted on the basis of an excellent series of aerial photographs, further data being provided by stray and excavated finds. The site continued in use from the Iron Age into the Roman period although it is unlikely to have been allowed too retain all its functions as a native tribal centre. It developed its religious importance and trading functions.
A number of major buildings including a Romano-Celtic temple complex (site 11649), a theatre of a form found elsewhere in association with temple sites (site 11646, 11647), and a bathhouse were constructed. These were laid out within a gridded street plan; in addition burials were placed to the south-east of the site. The resultant complex resembles a small town and it has been interpreted as an example of a rural fair or market place of a type previously unknown in Britain but well known from Gaul. During the C1 AD a Roman auxilliary fort (site 11645) was located immediately outside the Heath Farm Dyke to maintain surveillance. A road linked the Gosbecks site with the neighborouring Roman colonia of Camulodunum 8 miles to the north. Activity on the site continued throughout the Roman period, the theatre being dismantled in the C3 but the rest of the site continuing into the C4. The scheduled areas were extended in 1988 to incorporate the Roman fort previously scheduled as Essex 206 and those lengths of the dyke system previously part of Essex 10 where they form the western and south-western boundaries of the extended SAM 57. <2> The part of the Roman site discovered and partially excavated in the C19 was scheduled in 1939. After the war air photos revealed numerous signs of occupation over a much larger area and additional areas were scheduled in 1954. An area inspectors report in 1975 stated that 'the standard plan and account of the archaeology is still M.R. Hull, Roman Colchester, 1958' but subsequently aerial photography has added more features to the plan. The principal features are; the Romano-Celtic temple enclosed by multiple ditches, another large enclosure adjacent to it on the eastern side (APs yield only the faintest suggestion of a building inside it), a Roman theatre 200 yards to the south, a complex of enclosures and linear ditches thought to be the remains of Iron Age and native Roman period field systems, cattle enclosures, etc. Further away burials and a possible kiln site have been discovered and a Roman road to Colchester runs north-east. There are various curved ditches on the edge of the whole area 'excavation of each of the has only been partial but the importance of the area is unquestionable. A Roman theatre complex is situated by a native farming area all just outside Britains first and most important Colonia.' <3> At least 2 Roman roads cross the Gosbecks site, one leading to Maldon. <4> Other ref. <5> <6>
Aps <8><9>
Magnetometer survey in October 1996 of the area inside the the great ditch of the Romano-Celtic temple. The portico, ditch and celle show up well. <11>
A further magnetometer survey in Nov 1996 showed many features clearly. The main findings were: there was no indication, at the north-west corner of the outer portico, of the presence of the terminos which Atkinson and Hull recorded.
At approx. the centre of the outer portico foundation on the eastern side there is a suggestion that there may have been an entrance.
The response from the middle portico foundation is not present for about 10m on the eastern side.
The measurements from the survey show that the great ditch is not a square and neither is the double portico.<10>

Site Assessment = The complexity, nature and extent of the archaeological remains at Gosbecks make it a unique site. It was a major settlement and religious site for the native Trinovantes tribe during the Iron Age. Many of the cropmark features visible over the area have been interpreted as dating from this period and confirm the view of a major defended settlement site. Under Roman influence a small town with major public buildings arranged on a gridded street plan developed at Gosbecks. All these buildings are considered rare in themselves and taken together they provide a unique example in Britain of the type of small unwalled town well known from Gaul. <1> In 1954 most of the scheduled area was under arable but not deep ploughed.

AP <8>
Geophysical survey on trapezoidal ditch structure to the southwest of the temple and theatre and area to the south was carried out in 2001/2. The survey failed to clarify whether the southwest corner of the trapezium was an entrance to a farmstead. Instead the ditch system appears to have been modified in the Roman era. There appears to have been a somewhat wandering trackway running north-south past this southwest corner. The complexity of the enclosurte pattern to the south of the trapezium implies use and re-use of the area over an extended period of time.<12>

Google Earth image showing cropmark of infilled dyke, curving NW to SE, 2006.<25>

Sources/Archives (27)

  • <1> Scheduling record: Department of the Environment. 1986. DOE Scheduled Ancient Monuments. parts 5-8.
  • <2> CORRESPONDENCE: HBMC. 1988. Gosbecks Iron Age and Romano-British site. Amended entry in monument schedule, additional areas.
  • <3> DESC TEXT: unknown. 1960 0nwards. SMR form unknown.
  • <4> CORRESPONDENCE: Department of the Environment. 1976. SMR. Roman site, Cheshunt Field, Colchester.
  • <5> DESC TEXT: LS, PB. 1975. Archaeology.
  • <6> DESC TEXT: Hawkes, CFC and Hull, MR. 1947. Camulodunum. p10-11, copy in SMr.
  • <7> LIST: RCHME. 1988. Index of Excavations, Essex. p138-9.
  • <8> AP: unknown. unknown. Gosbecks Roman Temple.
  • <8> AP: Rogers, P. 1993. SWBW16/3-5.
  • <9> AP: Tyler, Sue. 1997. CP/97/29/22, 23.
  • <10> DESC TEXT: Cott, Peter J. 1997. Magnetometry Survey report: Gosbecks Romano-Celtic Temple.
  • <11> DESC TEXT: Cott, Peter J. 1996. ESMR Summary Sheet.
  • <12> Geophysical Report: Black, Aline M. 2002. Geophysical Survey Report: Gosbeck's Iron Age and Romano British site, Colchester. Essex County Monument No.57 "Cunobelin's Farmstead".
  • <12> Geophysical Report: Black, Aline M. 2003. Geophysical Survey Report: Gosbeck's Iron Age and Romano British site, Colchester. Essex County Monument No.57 "Cunobelin's Farmstead" (second report).
  • <13> Map: Ingle, CJ, Strachan, D, Tyler, S and Saunders, H. 1993-2012. NMP Cropmark Plot - 1:10,000.
  • <14> AP: McMaster, I. 1979. 19-1.18, 1.14, 1.15.
  • <15> AP: NMR. 1979. SF 1573, 62, 87.
  • <16> AP: Farrands, RH. 1976. 141.2.
  • <17> AP: CUCAP. unknown. CJC 23, 25-26, CJF 23, 37, 44-45, 47.
  • <18> AP: NMR. 1977. TL9622/27/127.
  • <19> AP: NMR. 1977. TL9622/26/124.
  • <20> AP: NMR. 1979. TL9622/46/54.
  • <21> AP: NMR. 1973. TL9622/3/170.
  • <22> AP: NMR. 1973. TL9622/2/164.
  • <23> AP: CUCAP. 1976. BXX 84.
  • <24> AP: CUCAP. 1979. CJC 19.
  • <25> AP (Digital): Google Earth. 2006. Aerial photograph of cropmarks north of Olivers Farm, Stanway.

Finds (2)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (10)

Record last edited

Jul 15 2016 2:23PM

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.