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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 1230: summary

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Continuous archaeological monitoring and recording and a test-pit evaluation at St James' House and The Waiting Room, Queen Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 2PQ: December 2017-January 2018
by Adam Wightman
(with contributions from Stephen Benfield, Alec Wade, Emma Holloway)

Date report completed: March 2018
Location: St James' House and The Waiting Room, Queen Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 2PQ
Map reference(s): TL 99581 25111
File size: kb
Project type: Monitoring and test-pitting
Significance of the results:

Summary. Archaeological monitoring and evaluation (five test-pits) was carried out at the former St Jamesí House and The Waiting Room, Queen Street, Colchester. Located within the southeast angle of the Roman walled town, the development site is immediately to the north of the Roman town wall, to the northeast of the Southgate and in an area of known Roman buildings.

Following the demolition of the two buildings, the removal of the floor slab in both structures was monitored to ensure that no damage was caused to underlying archaeological deposits. No archaeological deposits were observed during the monitoring works, or damaged during the demolition of either building. Test-pits TP1-TP3 and TP5 revealed significant medieval/post-medieval and Roman remains. By excavating the backfill from truncations associated with the construction of St Jamesí House, it was possible to record the remains in TP1 and TP3 in section. Post-Roman pits were excavated in TP2 and TP5 to examine the Roman deposits beneath. Near the Queen Street frontage, the uppermost level of archaeological significance was 0.35-0.5m below current ground level. Further east in the building footprint, similar remains were buried beneath a greater depth of modern build-up (c 0.8-1.1m).

The remains of a probable plinth for a medieval/post-medieval timber-framed building were identified close to the Queen Street frontage. Other features/deposits dating to this period included a number of pits and accumulations of garden soil, as well as later post-medieval remains, such as a brick-lined soakaway and a small area of cobbled paving, all of which would have been located to the rear of buildings which fronted onto Queen Street. Floors belonging to Roman buildings were identified across the footprint of St Jamesí House. These included the remains of a black, white and red mosaic floor. The extensive use of mortar as a flooring material suggests that most of the floors recorded were laid after the early 2nd century (CAR 3, 23), although it is likely that earlier floors survive beneath. The sequence of Roman floors was over 1m deep across the site, which is unusually deep for this part of the Roman town. No evidence of a north/south Roman Street separating Insulas 38b and 39 was identified in the test-pits. It is possible that the mettled surfaces previously ascribed to this street could be associated with the Roman buildings on the site and that there is no street in this location.

The test-pits have shown that St Jamesí House was built on concrete stanchions which continue c 1.8m below the base of the floor slab and are supported by large concrete pads. These pads do not appear to be connected by a ring-beam and probably vary in size (between 2.75m2 and 3.8m2) depending on where they are located within the structure. A shallow ground beam (c 0.9m below the floor slab) connects the stanchions around the outside edge of the building and also around the stair core and lift shaft at the rear of the building. The archaeological evaluation has shown there to be a good level of archaeological preservation in between the structural remains of St James' House.