Monument record MCC8355 - Roman wheel tomb, West Mersea


Roman wheel tomb found in 1896 to the east of West Mersea Church.


Grid reference Centred TM 0109 1251 (28m by 21m) (FCE)
Map sheet TM01SW
County ESSEX


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

Roman wheel tomb found in 1896, located c.170m east of West Mersea Church.

65ft (20m) in diameter with a small hexagonal chamber in the centre from which radiate six walls which meet the 3ft thick encircling wall and project beyond it for 4ft as external buttresses (resembling a spoked wheel in plan). Between each pair of these there is an extra buttress, making 12 buttresses in all. The structure is made of tile on foundations of mortar and ragstone. There is no sign of either a doorway or floor. Three pieces of dressed stone and many roofing tiles were found. Interpreted as a tomb on the basis of parallels with examples in Italy and Germany. VCH has photo of tomb. The Essex HER has a plan, copied from the RCHM.<1><2><5><7>

Other refs: <3><4> give details of excavation in 1897 by H. Laver of the Essex Archaeological Society.

The remains were originally thought to be the base of a Roman lighthouse or pharos, giving its name to nearby Pharos Lane. See Mersea Museum website: [accessed 11/08/16]

Site visits in the 1980s and 1990s identified that the monument lies across several garden plots, nos. 4 and 6 Beach Road and 20 Pharos Lane. Parch marks in the lawns of the houses can show the outline of the monument. A resistivity survey was undertaken in 1989 to try to determine the extent of the monument but this was inconclusive.<4>

A trial trench was excavated by hand in the garden of 20 Yorick Road in 2003, in advance of a planning application to extend the garage to form a new house (now known as the Barn). At the western end of the trench, the evaluation exposed a portion of the outer wall of the foundation and part of a buttress. The structural remains were recorded between 100mm and 300mm depth for the buttress, and at 400mm depth for the exposed section of the outer wall. The opus signinum and tile foundations appeared to be in good condition (as far as could be observed in the evaluation trench).<8> This was followed by a watching brief during the excavation of foundation trenches and a drainage trench in 2005, forming part of a new extension to the garage (to form a new dwelling). The bulk of material encountered (opus signinum and tile) was interpreted as demolition material associated with the mausoleum. In addition to the demolition material, a greensand and mortar wall foundation was defined, interpreted as Roman and possibly part of a structure or boundary wall associated with the mausoleum (see MCC5406).<9>

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> DESC TEXT: unknown. 1960 0nwards. SMR form unknown.
  • <2> Artifact: Colchester Museum. unknown. ARTEFACT Col Mus.
  • <3> DESC TEXT: Powell, WR. 1963. Victoria County History, Essex, Vol III (VCH). Vol 3, p.159.
  • <4> DESC TEXT: Society of Antiquaries. 1897. Proc Soc Antiq. 2nd Series, Vol 16, p.422.
  • <5> DESC TEXT: Clapham, AW. unknown. Archaeol J. Vol 79, p.93.
  • <6> DESC TEXT: RCHME. 1922. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex - Volume 3. Vol 3, pp.229-230.
  • <7> Scheduling record: HBMC. 1986. DOE Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Parts 5-8.
  • <8> Evaluation Report: Holloway, Ben (CAT). 2004. An archaeological evaluation at 20 Yorick Road, West Mersea, Essex. CAT Report 255.
  • <9> Watching Brief Report: Holloway, Ben (CAT). 2005. An archaeological watching brief at 20 Yorick Road, West Mersea, Essex. CAT Report 330.

Finds (1)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Record last edited

Jun 6 2017 9:11AM

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