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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 1614: summary

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Archaeological excavation at 5-6 St Nicholas Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1DW June-July 2019
by Laura Pooley
(with contributions from Sarah Carter, Emma Holloway, David Dungworth, Val Fryer, Lisa Gray, Dr Matthew Loughton, Alec Wade, Penelope Walton-Rogers and Adam Wightman)

Date report completed: October 2021
Location: 5-6 St Nicholas Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1DW
Map reference(s): TL 99818 25176 (centre)
File size: 10271 kb
Project type: Archaeological Excavation
Significance of the results:
Keywords: St Nicholas Street, Colchester, Jacks

Summary. An archaeological excavation was carried out inside 5-6 St Nicholas Street, Colchester, Essex during groundworks in advance of the creation of a café space and residential units. The development site is located within Insula 30 of the walled Roman town close to the Temple of Claudius, and the buildings themselves date from the late 15th century and late 16th to early 17th century with later phases of extensions and alterations. Excavation revealed three periods of Roman activity. Period 1 is of early Roman date, ending at the Boudiccan revolt of AD 60/1. Structural remains included a single east-west aligned stud and-wattle wall, with three linear features possibly representing further wall alignments. The structure had a tiled roof, the stud-and-wattle wall had been plastered and painted, and fragments of window glass were also found among the debris, all indicative of a timber-framed building. The building, which was damaged during the Boudiccan revolt, was subsequently demolished and the site levelled. Period 2 dates from the early 2nd century. Structural remains included a substantial north-south aligned wall made of courses of septaria and tile in mortar. Two smaller east-west wall foundations of more irregular construction were probably plinths for timber-framed walls. Metalled floor surfaces sealed the Boudiccan destruction debris of Period 1, with some later floor surfaces laid above. Debris from the destruction of this building included large quantities of ceramic building material including box flue-tile and some column bricks and hollow voussoirs, along with window glass, painted wall plaster, stucco and marble, suggesting a significant structure, probably a public building. By Period 3 at least part of the Period 2 building had been demolished although some walls were still standing. Few structural features were associated with this period aside from a small gully and several post-holes/stake holes, with evidence suggesting that the site was perhaps being used for small-scale grain storage and iron smithing. A charcoal horizon dating to the late 4th century seals the period. The horizon produced numerous late Roman finds along with burnt environmental remains and textiles. Covering the Roman remains was 0.8-1.1m of soil dating from the 14th to late 15th century, which contained varying quantities of Roman demolition material. A historic building recording carried out in 2017 revealed five standing buildings on the development site dating to the late 15th century, the late 16th/early 17th century, the late 19th century and c 1970. Surprisingly, there were scant archaeological remains associated with these structures and most of the floor layers appear to have been removed in the 20th century. Significant finds include evidence for two previously unknown small cellars or underfloor storage areas and a large pit positioned underneath the late 15th century building.