Rare Roman finds at new Bretton care home site

The site at Bretton Way, Peterborough where historic remains were unearthed during development work. Picture: Georgi Mabee/Peterborough ET
The site at Bretton Way, Peterborough where historic remains were unearthed during development work. Picture: Georgi Mabee/Peterborough ET
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Archaeology: Historians are studying artefacts dating back thousands of years which have just been dug up in Peterborough.

Experts say the discovery of Roman remains is the largest of its type and they expect the find to be of national importance.

Remains, including a stone-lined tank, from Iron Age and late Roman settlements have been discovered at the Oak Tree site, Bretton Way, Peterborough.

Alongside the 2.5metre deep tank, which experts believe was used for ancient rituals, were other items such as hob-nailed leather shoes, almost complete pots, coins and animal remains.

They were found as the site was being prepared for construction of a new neurological care home by developer PJ Care.

Project officer Alex Pickstone, of Cambridge-based Oxford Archaeology East, who completed the archaeology works, said: “The stone tank is of national significance. It’s very unusual.

“Personally, it’s one of the biggest finds we’ve found in the Peterborough area.

“It’s very exciting.”

The tank appears to be lined with re-used stone slabs, possibly from a palatial Roman villa discovered at Castor, just five kilometres south-west of the site.

Peterborough City Council archaeologist Rebecca Casa Hatton said: “There is evidence of at least two Iron Age roundhouses in the eastern part of the site.

“The other finds indicate there could have been a Roman settlement nearby. The leather shoes are exceptionally well preserved.”

PJ Care now plans to preserve the lower part of the tank in its existing location.

Meanwhile, the upper part will be restructured to create an interior display along with some of the more interesting finds with interpretation boards explaining the history of the site.

PJ Care operations director Neil Russell said work to build the home has not been delayed.

A ground-breaking ceremony is due to take place on Thursday, with Mayor of Peterborough, councillor Keith Sharp.

Planning approval for the 107-bed neurological care home plus 37 assisted living units, a hydro-therapy centre and associated parking and landscaping was granted in December.

Mr Russell said: “We were all quite excited by these finds and are looking forward to seeing them on permanent display in our reception, where they can be seen seven days a week.

“We have spoken with school governors about working with primary schools and once we are open we hope to be able to organise a series of educational visits to see the artefacts.”

A report of the survey, required under planning conditions set by Peterborough City Council, will be published in the council’s Historic Environment Record (HER).