- Roman kiln and mosaic unearthed as engineers deliver vital gas mains replacement work in St Albans
- Project archaeologists have supervised work and documented the work which is the first dig at Verulamium Park since 1961
- Work will help safeguard future local gas supplies and a report chronicling the new archaeological information will be published
A certain fictional archaeologist may be preparing to dust off his fedora for another big screen adventure but real life engineers from Cadent have already beaten him in the quest to unearth rare historic artefacts.
While carrying out vital work to replace ageing gas mains in Mud Lane and historic Verulamium Park, Cadent engineers helped unearth historic relics including the remains of a Roman kiln and mosaic, hitherto hidden by the sands of time.
Verulamium Park is a scheduled ancient monument and all but essential excavation work there is forbidden. Replacing the ageing gas mains at the site required extensive planning and liaison with others including the local authorities and Historic England.
Work had to be done under strict archaeological supervision with the digging of excavations in the park painstakingly done by hand.
Cadent hired specialist archaeological experts to assist it in carrying out the work and over the past few months a number of artefacts shedding light on life in Roman times have been unearthed.
As well as the remains of the Roman brick kiln and mosaic the team has also found evidence of a road and a town house, thought to have been demolished in the third century AD, which included an elaborate tiled floor.
The finds have all been carefully photographed and documented before being covered up once more by the earth which has hidden them for over 1,500 years.
Dr Rachael Townend, worked as a Senior Consultant Historic Environment for Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure UK Ltd, during the project, which oversaw the archaeological work which was undertaken by AOC Archaeology.
She said: “Cadent’s essential gas mains replacement project has enabled us to make some interesting archaeological discoveries which help us shed more light on how life was here in Roman times.
“We discovered some new information about the city for example we found a building where we thought there was a road.
“All the information has been recorded including drawings and photographs and this will be used to compile a report which will be publically available in the local authority and Historic England archives for people to use.”
Cadent Authorising Engineer Dilbir Chana said: “This project involved a lot of interagency work and we were always mindful of the historic nature of this ancient site.
“We’re pleased that our work which will help keep people connected to safe and reliable gas supplies in the future has also led to some fascinating new information about the past being unearthed.”
Verulamium Park stands on the site of the Roman city of Verulamium, which was once the third largest settlement in Roman Britain after Londonium (modern day London) and Corinium (modern day Cirencester). Britain’s first recorded martyr Saint Alban, from whom the town takes its name, was also beheaded outside the city’s gates on modern day Holywell Hill.
Today visitors can view Roman remains including walls, a basilica, bathhouse, theatre and hypocaust (heated floor) complete with heated mosaic with many more artefacts believed to still lay undisturbed beneath the ground.
The last major excavation of the site was carried out when gas mains were last laid there and took place between 1955 and 1961, with eminent archaeologist Sheppard Frere supervising the dig.
To watch Raiders of the Lost Kiln, a video about the project, go to: https://vimeo.com/262213052/67ffeaa878
For more on Cadent‘s other gas mains replacement work go to www.bettergaspipes.co.uk