Skip to main content

Font Size: A+ A-

Verulamium Museum Excavation

Between September 1996 and May 1997, Verulamium Museum was extended. During the building work, an excavation of the site took place. This excavation continued work begun by A.W.G. Lowther, who excavated part of the Basilica (Insula XII) and Building 1 (Insula XIII) between 1934-1936.  Lowther’s work was followed in the 1950s by S.S. Frere, who examined the site of the original Museum extension at the rear of the present building, and it continued with C. Saunders’ and A. B. Havercroft’s excavation in 1976, that focussed on the rear of the Museum and the Changing Rooms.

The work carried out in the 1990s helped to further understanding of the chronological and physical development, habitation and decline in this part of the Roman town.

The Museums Service Excavation in 1996/97

Area A, at the side of the Museum, towards the car park, was wholly opened in February 1997. The entrance area VEX trench (Area A) picked up part of the Basilica (Phase 1 and 2) in Insula XII, part of another building (Building 3) in Insula XIII and just clipped part of the southern edge of Insula XIX. These excavations did not go beyond the depth that was under immediate threat from the development. This meant that the earliest deposits were not reached, and those examined cannot illustrate their full context or significance (a drawback with this preservation in situ limitation). In Area A, the earliest deposits encountered were the top of a large ditch filled with what may have been post-Boudican tidying of the site

The excavation of the VEX trench at the rear (Area B) was completed by the beginning of November 1996 and was sited within the limits of the proposed photographic studio and workshop footprint that was located over a town house (Insula XVIII, Building 1). Due to limited proposed foundation depth (utilising piles), excavation continued to, and stopped at the first surviving level of stratified Roman floor. However, excavation detail from 1976 was incorporated into this excavation report, as this came from part of the same building, and had the advantage of going deeper than the recent project.

Site Context

The Museums Service Excavation site lies partly astride the junction of ‘Watling Street’ (Streets 13 and 14), leading to Chester and London, and the major east to west road (Street 18) leading to Colchester and Silchester.

In spite of its location, in the heart of the Roman town, the development of buildings and associated road side ditches/drains appears to reflect continual silting and rebuilding. Indeed, it transpired that ‘Watling Street’ was not a primary feature of the early town, and the road alongside the Basilica was constantly being raised as roadside ditches silted up, when nearby buildings may have been flooded.

Some of the first features encountered were a series of postholes. At first they were thought to have some age, but it soon became apparent that they were scaffolding holes.

A leather glove dating from 1930's was found alongside. You can see a photo of the glove below. We think it is probably a left glove and from measuring the thumb width and length, it is probably a ladies size 7 glove. The open decorative loop created by the press stud is on the palm side of the glove. The cuff band in entirety (including round the stud and the loop) measures approximately 33cm. 

Also below are some illustrations of the glove which make some of the details easier to pick out. There is also a reconstruction drawing showing both sides of the left glove, with stitching décor on the back of the hand.