Bodies from Roman times could lie beneath £9m Norwich hospital revamp site
Experts say there is “high potential” for Roman remains, including bodies, to be uncovered if a £9m revamp for a hospital gets the go-ahead.
Health bosses have lodged plans which would see the transformation of the Norwich Community Hospital site, off Bowthorpe Road, in the west of the city.
The existing building would be knocked down and replaced with a five-storey hospital, alongside a new care home, care units and worker accommodation.
Norwich City Council will make a decision on Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust’s application in due course.
But if permission is granted, then Norfolk County Council’s historic environment service has signalled it would want to see a programme of archaeological mitigation, including digging of trial trenches.
That is because, there are recorded that a Romano-British burial ground was discovered at the site back in 1861, while a Roman cremation urn was found by workmen in 1980.
While excavations in 1994 and 2009 found no evidence of further Roman activity, CgMS Heritage, which was asked by the NHS Trust to draw up a report on the site, said further remains cannot be discounted.
A Roman road, which ran between Bawburgh and Bishop Bridge also runs within 60 metres of the site. Coins and broken pieces of pots have previously been found there, so the site is considered to have “a high potential for remains of Roman date”.
A spokeswoman for Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, said: “We are aware of the archaeological potential of the site and would expect there to be planning conditions linked to any planning permission, requiring investigations to be carried out before the construction of the new hospital begins. This is typical of development sites and forms part of our overall development programme.
“We are not anticipating that this would lead to any delays to the overall timescale for the project.”
The county council, as local flood authority, has also lodged a holding objection to the proposals due to flooding concerns.
But health bosses are also hoping that further testing and modelling of the site will provide necessary information to get that holding objection removed.
Recent history of the site
The site of Norwich Community Hospital has a long history in healthcare and was first home to the Norwich Incorporation Workhouse, built between 1859 and 1860. And the first workhouse infirmary appears on maps from 1883.
A nurses’ home, known as Woodlands, was built in 1903. In 1911 the infirmary was extended with the addition of a three-storey administration block and a women’s ward. A men’s ward, to replace the infirmary, was planned at the same time, but was not built until 1939.
By that time the workhouse had become a public assistance institution. But the main building was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, although the infirmary and Woodlands survived.
By 1948 the site was known as the West Norwich Hospital. And in 2005 - after a £1m investment - the site re-opened as Norwich Community Hospital.