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Chance to enjoy even more of Norfolk’s Roman town at Caistor St Edmund

12:26 31 July 2013

Members of the public watch the  excavations at Caistor St Edmund Roman town during last year

Members of the public watch the excavations at Caistor St Edmund Roman town during last year's dig day.; Photo by Simon Finlay

Archant © 2011 01603 772434

History buffs will be able to take in even more of one of Norfolk’s most remarkable archeological sites, after an extra 22 hectares at Caistor St Edmund Roman Town were opened up to the public.

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The Norfolk Archaeological Trust, which owns most of the site of the Roman Town at Caistor, has just announced that the land on the west bank of the River Tas is now open for public access.

The Roman town of Venta Icenorum – which means market of the Iceni – lies beneath the fields at Caistor St Edmund and made national headlines in 1929.

That was when dramatic aerial photographs showing streets and public building were published in the national press, catapulting Caistor St Edmund into the public eye.

Excavations took place between 1929 and 1935, but in recent years archaeologists have returned to the site, with their discoveries including a fourth-century Roman buried in a shallow grave.

The town was established after Queen Boudica’s tribe, the Iceni, failed in their revolt in AD 61 and lost control of the land to the Romans.

It is believed the area dates from the first century, up until the fifth, and was the largest and most important Roman centre in Northern East Anglia.

The public has been able to walk on part of the site for free since 1993, when the then chairman of the Countryside Commission, Sir John Johnson, opened it up,

But now the extra land, known as Dunston Field, brings the total area open to the public up to 60 hectares.

The new land was bought in 2011 with grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, English Heritage and South Norfolk Council.

Dunston Field was snapped up because it contains important evidence that Anglo-Saxon occupation at Caistor continued long after the Romans left.

During the final year of the Caistor excavations last summer, which were run by the University of Nottingham, an Anglo-Saxon building was excavated on Dunston Field.

This confirmed that the field was a centre for Anglo-Saxon activity and was possibly a market place before Norwich started in the ninth century.

A new bridge across the river has also been completed thanks to a grant from Norfolk County Council’s Community Construction Fund.

Dr Peter Wade-Martins, director of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust said: “The newly purchased land has been shallow cultivated to minimise further cultivation damage and has been sown with a mix of wild grasses and wild flowers to create, in the long term, a herb-rich hay meadow.

“This will protect the archaeology, be good for the wildlife and good for public enjoyment.”

Over the next 18 months the Norfolk Archaeological Trust will also be funding a series of new information boards about the Roman town and further conservation work on the Roman walls.

Work on the walls has started and will continue most of the summer. An information panel which explains the trust’s new initiatives has just been erected in the Roman town car park.

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