Canterbury Archeological Trust

No. 25 Watling Street
Paul Bennett


Hillside Systems

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Canterbury's Roman theatre Small trenches have often been proved to provide extremely valuable information. This was certainly the case for a relatively small excavation conducted in advance of development in the back garden of No. 25 Watling Street during July and August 1987.

The garden, part of a doctor's surgery which is currently being extended for waiting and consulting rooms, lies in the area of Canterbury's Roman theatre, built in the early third century A.D. The Garden space is extremely small and is surrounded by high shallow-founded brick walls. After discussions with the doctors, who funded the excavation, and their architect and engineer, agreement was reached to design new foundations which would not severely damage the underlying archaeological levels. Only one deep foundation for the new building was deemed necessary ant this was hand cut by the Trust to the dictates of the architect.

The garden, which is of some age, being shown with its present boundaries on the First Edition Ordnance Survey for 1874, was stripped of topsoil by a Trust team supervised by Mr Dennis Nebiker. This was a considerable undertakinq since the soils had built up over the years to a depth in excess of 1 m.

A well stratified sequence of medieval and post-medieval levels were in evidence in the trench which was cut across the width of the garden plot and mid way along its length. Traces of a building with clay floors and masonry dwarf walls supporting a timber superstructure, were exposed. This was probably a detached kitchen block at the rear of a road frontage domestic residence preceding the surgery building. Many early and late medieval rubbish and cess pits were also excavated, these cutting through substantial robber trenches for Roman theatre fabric. A large curving robber trench and a substantial fragment of curving masonry was located at depth at either end of the trench. These foundations, undoubtedly parts of the cavea which once supported the theatre's banked seating, were separated by bedding deposits for an opus signinum floor. One small section of the floor, which originally extended between the curving walls as a continuous covered walkway under the great mass of the cavea, was found intact.

My thanks are extended to the team of Manpower Service Commission Community Programme workers and Trust staff who assisted with the work. Grateful thanks are also recorded to Drs Wood, Vernon and Pay who financed the work, and to the Manager and staff of `The Three Tuns' who allowed us access to the excavation through their property and parking space for skips utilised for spoil removal.

See this place today Click on the logo to see this place today.   The information on this page is Copyright © Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1989 Reproduced with permission.
The text and pictures were taken from Canterbury's Archaeology 1987/1988, The 12th Annual Report of Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd.


Peter Collinson Last change: 7th September 2008