Community invited to Roman dig in Chichester

An initial dig confirmed the finds on the radar images
An initial dig confirmed the finds on the radar images

One of the most remarkable Roman discoveries ever found in Chichester will soon be uncovered – and the public is being invited along.

The remains of three Roman buildings which have survived more than 1,600 years were found under Priory Park earlier this year.

People will be able to watch a dig take place between Saturday and Monday, May 27 to 29.

Archaeologists were stunned to find the footings of three almost complete Roman buildings using ground penetrating radar equipment.

James Kenny, archaeologist at Chichester District Council, said: “What’s remarkable about this discovery is that it has survived over 1,000 years in a currently occupied city.

“This is because they are under a park that has never been built on. It’s almost unique to see Roman houses survive in this type of setting and to be so complete.”

Scans appear to show two large masonry houses owned by someone of great importance and a third building of great interest because of its unusual shape.

Mr Kenny will also hold a series of talks on Wednesday, May 31 in the park to reveal the findings.

The dig ties in with the city’s Roman Week, which will offer a variety of activities and events to celebrate the city’s Roman heritage.

“This discovery is very exciting and is of national historical importance,” said cllr Susan Taylor, cabinet member for planning at Chichester District Council.

“We know that this has created a lot of interest and local residents are intrigued by what has been discovered on their doorstep and so we are excited to give people the opportunity to visit the site and see the discoveries.

“Chichester’s rich Roman history already attracts people from far and wide, due to its city walls and Roman Bath House, which is located in our Novium Museum.

“We hope that these further discoveries will encourage even more people to visit our beautiful city.”

Mr Kenny added: “The location marks what may have been one of the more affluent parts of the Roman Town, with these houses being the equivalent to a property worth millions of pounds in today’s society.

“The two houses have walls surrounding complete rooms, which may be set around a courtyard or atrium.

“There is also a deep masonry building with a rounded end.

“We are intrigued to find out what this building is.

“It could be a cellar, part of a bath house, or something even more exciting. We can’t wait to find out.

“These are definitely going to be some of the best surviving Roman remains that have been uncovered in a city environment.”

Mr Kenny believes that the houses were originally located on a street, but that this hasn’t survived because of the World War Two reservoir that was built in the park.

The scans reveal that another Roman street ran further east under Priory Park, but this will not be uncovered.

Mr Kenny said: “We are just going to focus our attention on the area south of The Guildhall building that is located in the park.

“We’re very lucky, because this is an area that is not regularly used and so we can carry out a dig to uncover the buildings that we have found. This is sure to unlock even more buried secrets and items of importance.”

The council hopes that this archaeological dig will reveal many of the secrets that have been hidden away for 1,600 years.

They will be doing this with the help of the Chichester and District Archaeology Society.

Mr Kenny will give talks to the public on Wednesday, May 31 at 10am, 12 midday, 2pm and 4pm in Priory Park.

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