Date issued: 8 October 2020
The site of a probable Roman-Christian church, dating back almost 1,700 years, has been awarded Scheduled Monument status after being nominated by the council for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England.
It means the remains, next to Colchester Police Station, are considered sufficiently rare as to be of national significance.
They are believed to have been built around the year AD 320, in the closing century of the Roman occupation, and may qualify as the earliest place of Christian worship in Britain – but possibly also as a temple to the Roman deity Mithras or a funerary banqueting hall.
In July, conservation work involving masonry repairs and the relaying of internal gravel surfaces was completed at the site. The work to restore the foundations was commissioned by the council and undertaken by specialist building contractors. A new interpretation panel is due to be installed later in the year.
Cllr Julie Young, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Performance and Deputy Leader of the Council, said: “I am delighted Historic England has agreed with us and given the site the recognition and protection it deserves. The announcement is especially timely, following the completion of renovation work during the summer.
“These remains are a remarkable survivor of our town’s rich Roman past. As a major city with good connections to the wider Roman empire, it is not difficult to image that Colchester was one of the first places in Britain where Christianity was established.”
Read more about the National Heritage List entry, here.
The site also features in the official Historic Colchester Guide as well as a booklet dedicated to the original excavation of the surrounding site, both of which can be purchased at the Visitor Information Centre and Castle.
In August, a group of Bronze Age burial mounds, or barrows, was also awarded Scheduled Monument status after being nominated by the council for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England.
The prehistoric remains, which lie close to Annan Road and the University of Essex, are recognised by Historic England as a rare example of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery in the east of England, unusual for having survived in a river flood plain location and with important archaeological potential in the form of earthwork and buried deposits.
Further information about the barrows can be found here.