Monument record MCC555 - Roman Balkerne Gate, Colchester


The main west gate of the Roman colonia. A freestanding monumental arch (MCC718), probably constructed when the colonia was founded in AD 49, was incorporated into a larger gateway when the wall (MCC859) was added to the refounded colonia following the Boudican revolt (although the date of the wall is subject to interpretation). The surviving (south) pedestrian archway, and the southern guardroom, is only a small part of what was a massive entranceway (30m long N to S) into Roman Colchester from the west. Most of the gate was demolished, and the gap filled in, c.AD 300.


Grid reference Centred TL 99235 25194 (12m by 31m)
Map sheet TL92NE
1848 Parish ST PETER


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

See CAR3, pp.121-123 for a discussion by Philip Crummy of the Balkerne Gate.<1>

See MCC718 for the monumental arch, which was incorporated into the gateway. The gateway was constructed as a double-arched gateway with flanking walkway arches and external guardrooms. Around AD 300, the external defensive ditch (MCC659) was extended so that it crossed and therefore cut off the London Road (MCC475) just beyond the Balkerne Gate. The monumental arch and most of the gate were demolished and the gap filled in.<4>

Excavations were undertaken in 1913 on the initiative of the Morant Club (ECC622). The investigations were begun under the direction of Dr. Henry Laver, F.S.A. , and Mr. Ernest N. Mason. The faces of the two northern piers were uncovered.<5> Excavations were also carried out in 1917 under the direction of Mortimer Wheeler (ECC623). Conditions were difficult as access could only be obtained by renewed tunnelling under the King's Head public house (renamed the Hole in the Wall in 1963).<5>

A watching brief was held during emergency repairs to electricity cables in 1992 running through the opening of Balkerne Gate (ECC1658). Generally, very little damage occurred to the deposits beneath the gate. Most of the trenches followed the lines of previous trenches but one was located too far to the north of the cable and as a result a feature was revealed. The feature was a very hard, compact layer probably laid beneath the gate as part of a foundation infill.<3>

In 1975, a small trial hole was excavated into the flower bed in the terrace of the old balcony of 'The Hole in the Wall' public house prior to its demolition for a new balcony (ECC565). The hole was dug to confirm a number of points about the Balkerne Gate and adjacent deposits. Most of the area examined had been destroyed by a late 19th or 20th-century pit which may have been the result of the excavations of 1913 by the Morant Club and 1917 by Wheeler (ECC622 and ECC623). Some stratified deposits had survived, however, particularly at the trenches northern end. The trench was at first confined to the flower bed but was later extended westwards to locate the blocking wall. The trench located the blocking wall where it crossed the remains of the monumental arch (MCC718). The blocking wall appeared to be about 0.2m wider than as shown on the plans published in CAR 3.<2>

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Monograph: Crummy, Philip. 1981. CAR 3: Excavations at Lion Walk, Balkerne Lane and Middleborough, Colchester, Essex. 3. pp.121-123.
  • <2> Monograph: Crummy, Philip. 1992. CAR 6: Excavations at Culver Street, the Gilberd School, and other sites in Colchester 1971-85. 6. p.816.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1985-1995. Colchester Archaeological Trust Unpublished Archive. 3/92a.
  • <4> Monograph: Gascoyne, Adrian and Radford, David. 2013. Colchester. Fortress of the War God. An Archaeological Assessment. p.109 & Fig. 7.4.
  • <5> Serial: The Essex Society for Archaeology and History. 1921. Vol. 15 (New Series) Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society. 15 (New Series).

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Record last edited

Mar 23 2020 1:50PM

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