Roman fort discovered ‘unexpectedly’ on Kier site

27 September 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Archaeologists uncover the Roman ditch (image: Exeter City Council)

The remains of a Roman fort have been discovered during the construction of a bus station in Exeter by contractor Kier.

The find, which is not expected to impact the construction timetable, has been described by one archaeology expert as “very important and completely unexpected”.

Kier is now working with the Exeter Office of Cotswold Archaeology to record remains of the city’s Roman history ahead of the construction of the new bus station and leisure complex.

Finds so far include coins and local pottery made in the area for the military, as well as fine red Samian tableware imported from France.

The first indication that there was a site of archaeological significance came with the discovery of a Roman ditch at the top end of the site between Bampfylde Street and Cheeke Street. Further excavations revealed two further large Roman ditches running parallel to each other. The military ditches belong to either a fort occupied by a military unit, or a defended depot or compound. 

Derek Evans, of Cotswold Archaeology’s Exeter office, said: "We’re very pleased to be working with Kier and Exeter City Council on this important site. The unexpected nature of this discovery and the significance of uncovering previously undocumented Roman military features in this area of the city, have made this a challenging and interesting project. We look forward to undertaking further analysis of the finds and other material recovered during our works and refining the story of the site’s history.”

Andrew Pye of Exeter City Council said: “This is a very important, and completely unexpected, discovery, in an area that has been heavily changed by previous post war redevelopment. Along with other recent work in Exeter, it demonstrates just how much of the city’s history can still survive in unlikely places, despite damage caused by bombing and modern concrete foundations.

"As the city continues to grow and renew, it is a good example of how the planning system and developers work together to make sure that remains that are inevitably affected by new development are properly excavated and recorded for the benefit of this and future generations.”

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