Remarkable Roman discovery is to be unearthed

One of the most remarkable Roman discoveries found in the centre of a thriving city, will be uncovered at the end of May.

The remains of three Roman buildings will be uncovered for the first time in Chichester's Priory Park, after surviving over 1,600 years in its city centre.

Visitors and residents will be able to watch the dig take place between Saturday 27 and Monday 29 May 2017. James Kenny, archaeologist at Chichester District Council, will then hold a series of talks on Wednesday 31 May in the park to reveal the findings. The event has been organised in order to tie in with the city's Roman Week  which will offer a variety of activities and events to celebrate the city's Roman heritage.

This year, archaeologists were stunned to find the footings of three almost complete Roman buildings. The discovery was made using ground penetrating radar equipment and was confirmed following a very small dig carried out by Chichester District Council's archaeologist and members of the local archaeological society.

Scans appear to show two large masonry houses, which would now be the equivalent to Chichester's grand Pallant House Gallery building, and would have been owned by someone of great importance. The third building is of great interest because of its unusual shape.

"This discovery is very exciting and is of national historical importance," says 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."

James Kenny, Chichester District Council's archaeologist was stunned by the discovery and is excited to uncover the secrets that are buried in the park.

"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," says James.

"It's almost unique to see Roman houses survive in this type of setting and to be so complete.

"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."

James 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.

"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," adds James.

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.

"We want to be certain what the archaeology is and demonstrate its significance. We also want to encourage residents and visitors to come and look at it and find out more about the discoveries that we uncover. We hope to use this evidence to bid for money to fund a series of excavations over successive years.

"This discovery is a unique part of Chichester's - and this country's - history, and so it is important that we make this accessible so that people feel involved. We look forward to sharing our findings with residents and visitors on Wednesday 31 May through a series of talks at 10am, 12 noon, 2pm and 4pm.

"We do not plan to keep the remains on permanent display - when the work has been completed we will return the ground to its current state. Instead, the likelihood is that we will create 3D imaging and information that will provide people with all of the information that they need in the long term," he adds.

Priory Park is located in the centre of Chichester and was given to the people of the city by the Duke of Richmond as a World War 1 memorial. 2018 will mark the centenary of the park and the First World War

James Kenny will give talks to the public on Wednesday 31 May at 10am, 12 midday, 2pm and 4pm in Priory Park so that we can share our findings with residents and visitors.

You can find details of other activities taking place during Roman Week

Date of release: Thursday 11 May 2017

Reference: 3711