‘HUGELY important’ remains of a Roman townhouse have been found lying under the site of the Golden Egg.
Demolition workers who are currently clearing the site of the former building in King’s Square called in archaeological experts to do a dig.
They have stumbled across the painted wall plaster of a townhouse as well as fragments of tiles and pottery.
Plans to redevelop the nearby bus station also have the added complication of the historic White Friars Priory, a Carmelite monastery, surviving beneath it. A dig will also have to be carried out there before any work can go ahead.
City archaeologist Andrew Armstrong said: “From an archaeological point of view this a hugely interesting and important part of the city – since it includes the north-east corner of Roman city.
“It’s therefore very important that the condition, character and depth of any archaeological remains in this area is understood from an early stage of the planning and design process so that damage to these remains can be limited.
“A programme of archaeological evaluation will be taking place in summer throughout the King’s Square and bus station areas. When I say ‘evaluation’ what I mean is ‘trial trenching’ – which is essentially the excavation of a sample of the site in an attempt to understand the archaeological remains more widely.
“A single trial trench at the Golden Egg site has been undertaken now because the council plans to landscape the site and incorporate it into the wider public realm and obviously it makes no sense to come back in a few months later and dig up the new paving.
“At a depth of three metres below ground level archaeologists uncovered a wall – made from limestone blocks and bonded with mortar. The wall is aligned north-west south-east and runs parallel with the line of the Roman city walls.
“The wall was found in association with a compacted gravel surface – itself overlying crushed limestone rubble. Material recovered from the site included fragments of Roman painted wall plaster, fragments of tile and sherds of Roman pottery.
“These remains have been interpreted as being part of a Roman town house, probably part of an outer wall and an internal floor. The remains themselves bare close comparison with these found to the west during the development of what is now Debenhams.
“These remains were found sealed beneath of considerable depth of later material – most of which seems to have built up over the last 300 years.”
LIFE IN A TYPICAL ROMAN TOWN HOUSE
- Early Roman townhouses were usually just a single room called the atrium.
- Rooftops sloped inwards to an opening where there would be a basin to collect rainwater.
- Atriums would be extended and partitioned to make more rooms.