Unearthing Roman Leicester

Castle Hill Archaeology Project

CHAPWell, I've gone a roving and I managed to get to volunteer with the archaeologists of ULAS on the site known as the All Saints Brewery site which is at the corner of Highcross Street and Vaughan Way, next to the church. The excavation is being undertaken in advance of plans to build on the area and is looking for what was there.  Full excavation will only take place if the foundations are potentially going to damage the archaeology.
Romman Town House

The site has given up some interesting features. We have found two roman town houses, a large roman cellar, a roman street and various mosaics (or bits of). Unfortunately the site has been heavily pitted during the medieval period for the gravel with a systematic approach to digging them.

The Town Houses

Each house is about 40m square with a central courtyard approx 10-12 m square. Each house consists of a corridor running around the courtyard and rooms running off the corridor probably on three sides.

First HouseHypercaust

We found dug out and robbed cross walls of the house, but there is a bit of a hypocaust heating system in the foreground.But the second house is even harder to define in between all the pits. One robbed out wall runs through the middle of the picture.

The Mosaic

The mosaic is only about the fourth found in Leicester. It is very geometrical in design with no fine picture unfortunately. The red tessera form the boundary of the mosaic. This does appear high up compared with other floored areas, but there are further flooring layers underneath this. In one instance on the site there are four floors on top of each other giving evidence of continual improvements.

MosaicAttempts are being made to lift the mosaic but at present weather conditions are thwarting it.


The Cellar

Again there has been about four roman cellars found in Leicester but this is thought of as being the largest. The floor and some the remaining walls are lined (in part) with opus signinum - a waterproof plaster or screed.

The cellar floor has two large pits through it. The east and has just been uncovered and does at first glance appear to have a robbed oval end to it. Of course when (and if excavated) this may turn out to be something completely different. Apse ended cellars are sometimes used for personal private devotions.


Samian WareArtefacts

There have been some nice pieces of pottery - especially necks and spouts of pots - and coming from varying Roman dates. Obviously all waiting to be cleaned, etc.

There has also be about half a dozen coins - all from house 1, but here has not been anything of note in terms of metal work unfortunately.

The Street

The continuation of the street found in the previous vine street excavations was found running alongside the boundary wall to the church. This however has not been excavated as the construction work will not affect it.


So for me it is a week off whilst the excavators fill part of the site and open up the trench that will run parallel to Highcross street. This has the potential for being interesting as finds where supposedly made in the 18th century down here. It was also the site of the old St John's Hospital in medieval times (although this is expected to be just outside of the site in the corner of Highcross Street and Vaughan Way) and both the city and county jails before they moved in about 1828.

Since the site is not open to the public, I hope you have found this interesting. I will try and do another once the Highcross street side is excavated.

Many Thanks to University of Leicester Archaeological Services for allowing me to excavate and indulge my passion!!

Robin Matthewman