More Roman secrets to be revealed at Priory Park dig in Chichester

A new dig is due to take place at Priory Park in July
A new dig is due to take place at Priory Park in July

Archaeologists are set to return to the city’s Priory Park next month for a second public dig to uncover more of the Roman secrets hidden beneath the ground.

Residents and visitors will be able to watch the dig in action from July 10 to 22.

This year’s project will extend the work carried out last year, which uncovered the very well preserved remains of part of a Roman bath-house, complete with its underfloor heating system, probably part of a luxurious Roman townhouse, occupied by one of the city’s wealthiest citizens.

The dig is being led by Chichester District Council’s archaeologist, James Kenny, with volunteers from the Chichester and District Archaeology Society, who will be returning with their trowels to uncover the whole of the building.

This will give people the opportunity to see the whole of the bath-house and how it connects with other nearby buildings.

On July 21 the team will hold a special day for the public, including a programme of talks by James to put the work into context and explain what has been found at 10an, noon, 2pm and 4pm.

Last year hundreds of people turned out to find out more about this unique part of Chichester’s history, which has survived untouched for more than 1,600 years.

Two years ago the remains of three Roman buildings were identified using ground penetrating radar equipment. The discovery was confirmed following a small dig carried out by James and the volunteers in 2016.

Scans appear to show two large masonry houses, which would now be the equivalent to Chichester’s grand Pallant House Gallery building, and would have been owned by someone of great importance.

The 2017 dig showed that the third building was part of a small but well-appointed bath suite, probably privately owned and associated with an affluent nearby town-house. Datable pottery and coins indicate that it was built after the 2nd century AD and used until the 4th.

The find is of great national importance because it so unusual to find the remains of Roman buildings that have survived in such a good condition in a built up area.

“The first public dig last year was so popular and it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages keen to find out this fantastic piece of history hidden beneath the park,” says Susan Taylor, cabinet member for planning at Chichester District Council. “This year even more of the area will be uncovered, giving us an even better understanding of what life was like back in Roman Chichester.

“I want to encourage as many people as possible to come along and see the project in action. People can also find out even more by visiting our Novium Museum which has the remains of a Roman bathhouse and a permanent Roman exhibition.”