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Dig confirms ‘beyond any doubt’ Reedham church built on site of Roman fortlet

PUBLISHED: 09:24 25 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:24 25 April 2018

Associate professor from Reading University, Amanda Clarke with the discovery of Roman foundations next to exterior wall of St John the Baptist Church, Reedham. The site is believed to date back to Roman times when  the area was surrounded by the sea.



 Picture: James Bass Photography

Associate professor from Reading University, Amanda Clarke with the discovery of Roman foundations next to exterior wall of St John the Baptist Church, Reedham. The site is believed to date back to Roman times when the area was surrounded by the sea. Picture: James Bass Photography

© James Bass 2018

A week-long dig at a church in Reedham has confirmed that the historical building was built on the site of a Roman fortlet.

Michael Fulford, Professor of Archaeology from Reading University.  Picture: James Bass PhotographyMichael Fulford, Professor of Archaeology from Reading University. Picture: James Bass Photography

For more than five years, archaeologists from the University of Reading have been carrying out excavations of the churchyard at St John the Baptist in Church Road.

Last summer, the team discovered what they believed to be the foundations of a Roman fortlet and Michael Fulford, professor of archaeology at the university, said their latest findings have “confirmed beyond any doubt” that this is the case.

Prof Fulford said: “With Roman foundations discovered towards both the east and the west ends of the church it looks as if the dimensions of the fortlet are similar to those of the church.

“The Roman foundations beneath the south wall of the church are exceptionally well preserved; their curving character suggests that they belonged to a tower or bastion, typical of late Roman fortifications from the 3rd or 4th century.

Discovery of Roman foundations next to the exterior wall of St John the Baptist Church, Reedham. The site is believed to date back to Roman times when this area was surrounded by the sea.
Looking through material discovered at different depths during the dig.

Picture: James Bass PhotographyDiscovery of Roman foundations next to the exterior wall of St John the Baptist Church, Reedham. The site is believed to date back to Roman times when this area was surrounded by the sea. Looking through material discovered at different depths during the dig. Picture: James Bass Photography

“Equally, the tower suggests the fortlet had some height and so could well have also served as a lighthouse or signal station, looking across to the contemporary fort at Burgh Castle.”

Being partially built from recycled Roman building materials, the church’s link to the Romans was no secret, but it could never be said with great certainty what previously stood there.

The findings go a long way to unravelling the mysteries of the site and Prof Fulford said making such revealing discoveries was both very fortunate and satisfying.

He said: “We were exceptionally lucky to find this evidence given how much of the Roman building has either been robbed away to provide the materials for the building of the church or has been destroyed through the digging of graves through all the generations since Anglo-Saxon times.

Discovery of Roman foundations next to the exterior wall of St John the Baptist Church, Reedham. The site is believed to date back to Roman times when this area was surrounded by the sea.

Picture: James Bass PhotographyDiscovery of Roman foundations next to the exterior wall of St John the Baptist Church, Reedham. The site is believed to date back to Roman times when this area was surrounded by the sea. Picture: James Bass Photography

“Our team has been wonderfully supported by church warden, Kati Cowen, the church and the village.”

The team began its investigations in 2013, working with the church in hopes of solving the mystery of the village’s Roman heritage.

The archaeologists had to work carefully throughout, as hundreds of burials had been performed on the consecrated site.

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