Excavating Roman Derby

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You know you’re getting close when you see the sign!

Last week I was despatched on a mission – to see how Trent & Peak Archaeology had been getting on with the excavations they were undertaking as part of the Our River, Our City project in Derby. The project is a major redevelopment of the city’s flood defences and centres around the River Derwent in the Darley Abbey and Chester Green areas of the city. Needless to say it is having an impact on some of the archaeology.

Chester Green is well-known for the site of much of the Roman occupation of the area, including a fort and civilian settlement or vicus.  It was also known as Little Chester (or Derventio as the Romans knew it) and it was established early in the Roman occupation of Britain – around AD 50. First of all there was a fort or temporary camp to the east of the river in what is now called Strutt’s Park. This was then replaced by the fort and settlement of Dervetio which seems to have been occupied for most of the Roman occupation. During this time the settlement or vicus shows all the signs of being quite successful and was based around the major Roman road called Ryknield Street. 

The current excavations at the southern end of Darley Playing Fields nr Chest Old Rd have been able to add more to the story. What seems to be emerging is the story of a fairly typical Roman approach to establishing a combined military and civilian administration site. The T&P team have uncovered evidence of internal street or road surfaces and more items from the day-to-day life of the settlement’s occupants. As you can see from some of the pictures below, some of the pottery is of good quality and would be been quite expensive to buy. There are items of personal use, such as a bone pin, as well as more generic items like animal bone. A particular of the team is the piece of Samian ware that appears to have been modified into a small round counter, possibly for use in as a gaming piece – games involving dice etc are known to have been very popular at the time!

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The excavations will be continuing for a while, and it is hoped that much more will be revealed about life 2,000 years ago. It is still possible to visit the site and chat with staff, but don’t limit yourself to just the site. There are more pieces of the Roman settlement to be seen around Chester Green and there are many information boards around to help.

My thanks to Paul Flintoff, Laura Binns and Alison Montgomery of T&P Archaeology for their help, and you can follow their blog on the project here: Little Chester Archaeology

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