Element Group record MCC9189 - Inhumation burials at 38-40 Crouch Street, Colchester


54 articulated inhumation burials (from 52 graves) were investigated in 2007, laid out across areas corresponding to the north and south transepts at the east end of the church of the Crouched Friars.


Grid reference Not recorded
Map sheet Not recorded
County ESSEX


No mapped location recorded.

Type and Period (4)

Full Description

The burials were of a mixture of juvenile, adult and old males and females, with no apparent monastic characteristics. It is therefore assumed that they are the burials of parishioners.

All of the burials are considered to be of medieval or early post-medieval date and part of a cemetery post-dating the construction of the church of the Crouched Friars. Although the evidence is not definitive, the most likely occasion for the creation of this cemetery would be after AD 1403, when a documentary reference suggests that some parts of the church were in need of repair, and were refurbished. There is little dated material in the grave fills, but the presence of peg-tile favours a late (rather than an early) medieval date for these burials. The burials contained a large quantity of disarticulated human remains. The medieval church walls and burials were all cut into a deep, dark earth layer which is probably late Roman and later. <1>

Most (if not all) the burials were clearly part of a cemetery, and were not interments made within the church during its life (although that possibility cannot be entirely excluded). The burials are clearly related to the area of the church crossing and transepts. None of the area of the chancel was disturbed below the level of the initial site reduction by the contractors’. However, it appears unlikely that the area of the chancel contains burials relating to this cemetery, because no burials associated with the cemetery were found east of the line of the east walls of the transepts, and there are areas of intact floors surviving within the south west area of the chancel (F21, F22) which do not appear to have been cut through by inhumation graves.

Some disarticulated human bone was also found scattered through the dark soil L2 in both excavation areas. All of the burials were oriented east-west, with the head at the east end. A number of iron nails were recovered from some of the graves (notably G37), but in no case did these form a pattern of a decayed wooden coffin. The nails were generally too small for coffin nails, and many may be residual Roman nails which found their way into the medieval grave fills. Some of the nails with traces of wood may actually be derived from Roman inhumation burials disturbed by the medieval church and cemetery. Nor were there any wood stains to suggest that coffins were used in the medieval graves. The bodies were presumably wrapped in shrouds.

The positioning of graves in discrete rows in the north burial area indicates some order to the layout of the cemetery - many of the burials can be seen to be arrangedas part of two rows either side of an axis running slight north-east to south-west. However, two burials lie across this axis (G36, G38). This organisation is not apparent among the burials excavated in the south burial area.

The burials were discovered during a watching brief on the contractors’ excavation around the pile tops. The ground was reduced by machine under archaeological supervision as close to the tops of the inhumations as possible, prior to their excavation by hand. A few grave cuts could be distinguished at this level, but for many of the inhumations the edges of the grave cut were not visible. The area between the south and north excavation areas contained no piles, and so was not disturbed. It is expected that this area also contains more burials. This is also indicated by the location of a human skull encountered at the base of an exploratory trench (F16) dug into L2 while cleaning the church foundations. All of the burials on the south excavation area were excavated and removed from the site. Not all of the burials in the north area were removed, because some of them lay below the limit of the contractors’ finished levels.

This followed a trial-trenched evaluation in 2004, which defined at least one inhumation (MCC2790). <2>

Sources/Archives (2)

  • <1> EXCAV REPORT: Benfield, S. and Brooks, H.. 2007. Crouched Friars: the medieval church structure and its associated cemetery. 38-40 Crouch Street, Colchester: January-April 2007. CAT Report 434.
  • <2> Evaluation Report: Shimmin, Don (CAT). 2004. An archaeological evaluation at 38-40 Crouch Street, Colchester, Essex, July 2004. CAT Report 277.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Dec 7 2015 1:43PM

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