Between 1996 and 2006 CAG, under the direction of James Fawn, carried out a series of excavations along the line of a suspected Roman Road at Great Tey. The road had first been noticed as parallel lines of crop marks in aerial photos (RAF4625 30.07.63 RHCM NMR TL8824/1, and Ida McMaster, 1976 (Ref.. 1), personal collection, now lodged with ECC Historic Environment).
The existence of the road was confirmed in two excavations across its supposed line carried out by the Group between 1986 and 1993. These, designated Teybrook A (TA) and Teybrook B (TB), have already been fully reported by James Fawn (Refs. 2 & 3). Further trenches were dug between 1993 & 2006, mainly on the boundary between Teybrook Farm and Warrens Farm, where the crop marks seen on the aerial photographs faded out (Figs. 1 & 2), with the objective of determining whether the road continued beyond this point, and if so, in which direction. None of these excavations have been reported. The purpose of these notes is to record the extensive surviving archive, which has been be deposited with Colchester and Ipswich Museum, and to note any germane observations from surviving members of the digging team.
No trace of the road could be found much beyond the point at which it disappears as a crop mark (TC). Around the line of the road, the entire area was rich in Roman activity, but it proved impossible to draw any firm conclusions as to the nature of that activity. A series of discontinuous surfaces, all made of crushed Roman brick or tile, and at a varying range of depths, were found in several of the trenches. These suggested some sort of low status industrial or agricultural activity, possibly associated with the villa 200m to the NE, but the evidence was very confusing. Many of the surfaces were overlain with a layer of dark silty alluvium, suggesting that the area was subjected to regular flooding – hardly surprising since it lay close to, and in the flood plain of, the Roman River.
Four trenches along the West side of Cow Meadow (TD, TH, TI, TJ) cut through a large ditch-like feature running in a gentle curve roughly NS along the East side of the boundary fence. James Fawn originally interpreted this feature as a boundary ditch, but its size and position, and the fact that it contained large quantities of Roman building materials, Roman coins and animal bone, all suggest that it was an early course of the Roman River, which changed course, or was diverted, towards the end of the Roman period.
TG was place to the south of TC in order to establish the line of the road, which had not been clear in TC. 3 ditches were identified, shown as thick black lines on Fig. 2.. These are shown on Drawing 16, and confirm with reasonable accuracy the line of the road shown on aerial photographs.
Fig. 1 Line of Roman Road (red dashes) as seen in aerial photographs, and positions of TA, TB & TZ. Pale blue lines and numbers are from OS Map Area TL
TH & TI. TH was originally begun, within the wood, in 1995 to investigate the possible continuation of the road beyond TC. No trace of the road was found. The trench was subsequently extended to the East into Cow Meadow to investigate the ditch/riverbed feature, and again in 2004 still further East. A section of the Eastern half was drawn on completion, Drawing 15 below. Two Roman coins were recovered from the area of the ditch. TI was subsequently opened diagonally to the North of TH. Both TH and TI cut through the ditch/riverbed, and also exposed a complicated series of broken brick surfaces, largely composed of broken (probably) Roman brick and tile.
TJ “River Bed” was dug in 2006 and extended the line of TC across the ditch/river bed into Cow Meadow. As with TD, considerable quantities of Roman CBM were recovered. More significantly 3 Roman coins were found. These all dated to the early 4th century (See small finds list below) suggesting the feature was open until at least this time, and was filled in at or towards the end of the Roman period. The line of the “River Bed” shows clearly on Google Earth and has been marked on Fig. 2 as two blue dashed lines cutting through TJ TD TH & TI. Considerable quantities of animal bone were also recovered. These have been examined by Ed Heigham, and her report is included in the archive.
Fig. 2 Cow Meadow, showing limit of Roman Road, and trenches TC – TJ. Approximate ditch/river bed line shown as blue dashes.
TZ In 2006, at the request of the landowner Richard Browning, a further trench was put across the line of the road just south of Chase Cottages (see Fig. 1). This excavation was directed by Ruth Rolfe. The positions of the four ditches were established, but no convincing road metalling was found, probably because the site was on the sloping ground leading down to Tey Brook, and the road had consequently suffered from erosion and plough damage. A section was drawn by Anna Moore et al., Drawings 17, 18 & 19. No finds were recorded.
Further Excavations in Cow Meadow. Several other trenches around or open areas around TJ were excavated during 2006. No record survives of identification numbers for these trenches. Two can be seen, either on Google Earth or on AJF phtotgraphs, and these are shown, unlabelled on Fig. 2. No finds have survived. The recollection of the digging team is that they contained a series of discontinuous surfaces, at varying depths, comprised of crushed Roman CBM. Many of the surfaces were overlain with a layer organic silty material consistent with episodes of flooding. No dating evidence was recovered from any of the trenches.
1. McMaster, Ida: Notes on Two Possible Roman Roads and Crop Marks, CAG Bull 19, 1976 pp. 10-11.
2. Fawn, James: A Roman Road at Teybrook Farm, Great Tey, CAG Bull. 34, 1991 pp. 29-37
3. Fawn, James: A Roman Road at Teybrook Farm, Great Tey: Part II, CAG Bull. 41 2001 pp. 7-14
For a full copy of the excavation notes see here:- Great Tey Roman Road Excavations