Monument record MCC8001 - Colchester - Balkerne Lane


Defences of the fortress and colonia were uncovered and remains of extramural settlement alongside the London-Colchester road.


Grid reference TL 992 251 (point) (FCE)
Map sheet TL92NE


Type and Period (22)

Full Description

Major excavation, 1973-6, outside the Balkerne Gate (see ), in advance of St Mary's multi-storey car-park and the W part of the inner relief road. Defences of the fortress and colonia were uncovered and remains of extramural settlement alongside the London-Colchester road. From the first period of occupation, ie the fortress, the legionary ditch, the street leading to the fortress's W gate and the intervallum road (via singularis) were examined. A number of flimsy buildings on both sides of the street seemed to be associated with iron working and may even have immediately post-dated the fortress. Human bones in the fortress ditch may almost certainly represent people executed at the W gate and whose bodies were left on display. In period 2 (50/?55-60/1) the fortress defences were destroyed and the area ceased to be used for iron-working. New, better buildings were laid out as part of the new colonia, along the street frontage. At least one of the military buildings was reused (this structure was excavated in 1967 by Dunnett). A number of water mains may also belong to this period. Period 2 was brought to a close by the Boudiccan revolt. Afterwards, in Period 3 (60/1-80) a large defensive ditch was dug across the site, which cut across some of the Period 2 buildings. A new N-S street replaced the `via singularis'. In Period 4 (c.80-125) the Period 3 ditch was backfilled and 3 oublic buildings were laid out; a monumental arch straddling the road (later adapted to form the Balkerne Gate); a Roman-Celtic temple and a probable shrine on either side of the road. Houses were laid out along the frontage and another building was erected 50+ m to the S. This house was subsequently demolished to make way for an ?aqueduct. the building is noteworthy for remains of wall paintings including depictions of gladiators. Three water mains were laid out alongside the street in this phase. During Period 5 (c.125-300) the town was provided with a stone wall. The monumental arch was incorporated into the Balkern Gate and the ditch was swung outwards to enclose the temple and ?shrine. The siting of the gate and the ditch meant water mains had to be diverted and the ?aqueduct was demolished. More * were built/replaced during the period and two other buildings were erected c.17m S of the London-Colchester street. One of them was probably part of the same plot as one/more of the frontage houses and had been partly damaged by C19 house building. It had probably been previously investigated by Dr H Laver in 1876. A `pavement' found at this time may be a mosaic found in the modern excavations behind one of the frontage houses. These arrangements were not militarily effective and c.300 the start of Period 6 was marked by the town ditch being * and dug across the street. The gateway ceased to be used and buildings to the W were cleared away. The temple and ?shrine continued in use. Evidence for * works was found N of the main street. At the S end of the excavated area remnants of gardens or allotments were found. Sometime after 335-7 but probably before the end of the Roman period metalling was laid over the partly silted ditch and access restored through the Balkerne Gate. A number of infant burials belonged to Periods 5-6. A child burial in a lead coffin had been reburied in antiquity, in a sandpit. A burial in the bottom of the Period 6 ditch may be early Anglo-Saxon (see ). The area seems to have been used as fields or allotments from Roman times until C17/C18. <1>

Sources/Archives (1)

  • <1> EXCAV REPORT: Crummy, P. 1984. Excavations at Lion Walk, Balkerne Lane and Middleborough, Colchester. CAR 3, pp93-154.

Finds (5)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Nov 3 2015 11:41AM

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