View all the report titles
View a summary of a chosen report
View the full report in PDF format of a chosen report
Search archive using keywords
Home Page

Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 434: summary

(Click on report title to view full report in PDF format)

Crouched Friars: the medieval church structure and its associated cemetery at 38-40 Crouch Street, Colchester, Essex - January-April 2007
by Stephen Benfield, Howard Brooks
(with contributions from Francesca Boghi, N Crummy, Hazel Martingell)

Date report completed: August 2007
Location: 38-40 Crouch Street, Colchester, Essex
Map reference(s): TL 99130 24940 (c)
File size: 9,191 kb
Project type: Archaeological watching brief and excavation
Significance of the results: ***
Keywords: Crouched Friars, friary, church, hospital, cemetery, inhumation, burial

Summary. The east end of the church of the Crouched Friars has come to light in a watching brief and excavation in advance of redevelopment. It is now apparent that Colchester Building 181, excavated to the west of this site in 1988, is part of the west end and cloisters of the same church. The central tower and cruciform plan could be early medieval, and it is presumed that this church is contemporary with the first documentary reference to the presence of the Crouched Friars here in AD 1251 (although there is no archaeological evidence to directly support this contention). Over fifty inhumation burials were laid out across areas corresponding to the north and south transepts. The burials are 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. 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. Were the transepts demolished, and the cemetery established among the ruined walls? 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 medieval church walls and burials were all cut into a deep, dark earth layer which is probably late Roman and later, and indicates that the area was open land (presumably farmed) in the later Roman and post-Roman periods. A few sherds of preNorman conquest pottery show that there was some, limited activity on the site before the establishment of the medieval friary.The dark earth layer sealed a sequence of Roman deposits. These included a series of gravel patches which are probably parts of the metalled surface of a previously unknown minor Roman road heading towards the Balkerne Gate. At least one Roman building (Colchester Building 213) lay on the south side of this metalled road. A fragment of what may be a glass Roman cremation vessel indicates that there may have been at least one Roman cremation burial on this site. In addition to the medieval burials, there was at least one Roman inhumation burial. The presence of residual bone and possible coffin nails in the fills of medieval graves supports the idea that there were more Roman inhumation burials on this site, in addition to those recorded here previously.