Gloucestershire Uni excavation uncovers fascinating finds

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Archaeologists excavating the University of Gloucestershire’s future city centre campus have uncovered a number of interesting and historically significant finds.

Cotswold Archaeology have been excavating the site of the former Debenhams building, ahead of its development into a new campus for the university.

The excavation was commissioned by the university and city council to avoid disturbing the site once work commences on the new campus. Roman activity in the Gloucester area dates back to the late AD 40s.

Work on the basement of the building, which previously housed Debenhams’ menswear department, found fragments of Roman pottery dated from the second century. Meanwhile, the remains of a wall, likely that of a townhouse, were found just below floor level.

Also uncovered in the same area was a cobbled stone surface, likely the remains of a Roman road dating back to somewhere between the second and fourth centuries, along with a large quantity of Roman roof tiles which could have been used to construct the road.

In the former delivery area pillars were uncovered which are believed to be the remains of the now demolished eighteenth-century St Aldate’s Church. Brick-built burial vaults and a crypt associated with the church were also identified within a service yard area at the site. This church replaced an earlier medieval church, which had its own churchyard, with its remains likely to lie beneath.

Other finds included fragments of a tobacco pipe, possibly dating from the sixteenth century, and pieces of a post-medieval wine bottle.

City Archaeologist, Andrew Armstrong, from Gloucester City Council, said: “The fact that these remains survive so well, despite having been built on, is really exciting.

“We’re looking forwarding to working with University of Gloucestershire to ensure that these remains are protected when possible and carefully excavated if they have to be removed. We’ll keep the people of Gloucester informed as any works progress.”

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The development of the former Debenhams building into a University teaching and learning environment, City Campus, is part of wider plans to regenerate Gloucester city centre.

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CGI of the exterior of City Campus

City campus is being developed following funding linked to its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals. In May, the University of Gloucestershire secured £29 million funding from Barclays to further these commitments.

By building the campus, the University hopes to recruit a higher proportion of young black and minority ethnic students; to widen access, engagement and participation for students from deprived areas; and to reduce gas and electricity COemissions as part of its commitment to Net Zero by 2030. #

Read more about this here: University of Gloucestershire secures landmark finance deal for ESG City Campus ambitions

As well as training the region’s future nurses and teachers, it is estimated that over its lifetime City Campus will add more than £300 million of direct and indirect value to the county’s economy, as well as more than 4,000 jobs.

Nigel Wichall, Director of Estates at the University, said: “Our City Campus development will be another exciting chapter in the rich history of the site, bringing new jobs and investment into a revitalised city centre.

“We are working with our partners on the project to ensure that, as much as possible, the archaeological remains are left undisturbed when the development goes forward.

“A priority for everyone is to ensure that the burials in the former church are left in place, if possible, and at all times treated with respect.”

Read more – University of Gloucestershire secures £3.3M funding to decarbonise heating at new City Campus

Featured image: Field archaeologist Noel Bothroyd excavating burial vaults at the site of the City Campus development.