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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 578: summary

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Archaeological monitoring at Kingswode Hoe School, Sussex Road, Colchester, Essex - August-September 2010
by Adam Wightman

Date report completed: December 2010
Location: Kingswode Hoe School, Sussex Road, Colchester, Essex
Map reference(s): TL 9835 2528
File size: 84 kb
Project type: Archaeological monitoring
Significance of the results: neg
Keywords: Sheepen Dyke, Victorian, landscape/garden features

Summary. CAT undertook archaeological monitoring in August and September 2010 at Kingswode Hoe School during the installation of three relocatable classroom units at the rear of the school. Kingswode Hoe School is located to the west of Colchester town centre, north of Lexden Road and on the western side of Sussex Road. The grounds are located within an area designated as a scheduled monument under the Ancient Monuments Act of 1979 (Essex SAM no 46). Excavations conducted in the 1930s revealed the site of a major Late Iron Age settlement to the north-east of the school defended on its western side by the Sheepen Dyke. The Sheepen Dyke was a large earth bank and ditch thought to have been constructed in c AD 10 and levelled in AD 43 following the Roman conquest. A later addition to the Sheepen Dyke, thought to have been added shortly before the Roman invasion, has been projected to run across the south-eastern corner of Kingswode Hoe School. The south-eastern edge of a large Late Iron ditch, identified as the Sheepen Dyke extension, was uncovered in 2009 (ECC FAU Report 2154). Sheepen became an industrial suburb of the Roman town and there is evidence of pottery kilns in the general area of the school including the playing fields where the relocatable classroom units were to be installed. The site work involved the continual monitoring of all groundworks associated with the relocation of the three classroom units from the front of the school to the rear. All excavations were undertaken using a mechanical excavator equipped with a toothless bucket. Firstly, 52 square pits between 0.7m and 1.1m in size were excavated to a depth of between 0.6m and 0.8m. These were subsequently filled with concrete and formed foundations/piers on which the relocatable classroom units were placed. This phase of the works took place in August 2010 during the school summer holidays and involved three days of archaeological supervision. The installation of the sewage pumping station and associated pipes took place in the October half-term with archaeological monitoring spread over three days. The pit for the underground pumping station was 2mē in size and roughly 2m in depth. The pumping station was connected to all three relocatable units and the main building to the east by pipes laid in a 600mm-deep trench excavated with a 400mm-wide bucket. The overall length of the pipe trenches was 56m. With the exception of the eastern 10m of the pipe trench, the excavations were through a medium grey/brown sandy-silt topsoil with a thin layer of turf (L1). Modern artefacts were noted in the topsoil, and some of the unstratified finds recovered most likely originate from this layer. A lighter, slightly orange, brown sandy loam subsoil containing few inclusions was stratified beneath L1 (L2). Beneath L2, the yellow/orange glacial sands and gravels (L3) began at a depth of approximately 400mm below modern ground-level (L3). However, the upper 200-300mm of L3 was often silty and brownish in colour which is interpreted as either a cover loam or the disturbed surface of the natural sand. Five archaeological features were identified during the monitoring. Each had a distinguishably darker grey/brown sandy silt fill than L2. A post-hole (F1), a small pit (F3), two shallow linears (F2 and F4) and a large pit spanning two of the pads (F5), were recorded. Four of the features contained post-medieval/modern brick and/or peg-tile fragments (F1, F2, F4, F5). These were not retained. The small pit F3 contained no dating evidence but appeared to be cut through the topsoil and, therefore, is assumed to be modern. Kingswode Hoe was originally a Victorian suburban house set in its own grounds (Kingswode House, built 1888). It was converted to a school in the 1950s. It is probable that the features identified are associated with landscape/garden features in the grounds of the Victorian house. All five features were identified in the square holes excavated for the foundation pads. No archaeological features or deposits were identified in the service trench despite the eastern end of the trench crossing the line of the Sheepen Dyke as projected by the 2009 evaluation. This could be attributable to the presence of tarmac and hogging over the eastern end of the trench which negated the need to excavate to a depth at which it would have been distinguishable, as well as to the difficulties associated with working in a narrow trench. The artefacts recovered during the excavations were mostly retrieved from the spoil heap or from the bucket of the mechanical excavator. Finds dating to the ?prehistoric, Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods were recovered. However, the number of artefacts was low, suggesting little archaeological activity in the immediate vicinity. No evidence of any prehistoric pitting or of Sheepen Dyke was observed during the works.