THE remains of a previously unknown Roman building – the largest ever seen in the region – have been discovered during building work on a new school.
Wall foundations for a large aisled structure the size of a medieval church have been unearthed on Banbury Road in Warwick, to where King’s High School is relocating.
Archaeologists say the building most likely forms a component of a large villa estate, which must have spread along the banks of the Avon and been connected to the Roman road system, and early indications suggest it developed in the 2nd century AD and probably went out of use in the 4th century.
Constructed of local sandstone, over 28m long by 14.5m wide, the villa would have been the largest building ever seen in the region.
Corn drying ovens, both inside and outside the structure, attest to an agricultural function, although internal wall divisions at the opposite end of the building probably indicate a suite of domestic rooms.
The remains of the building will be preserved under the new campus and plans are being developed to bring the results of the work to a wider audience in the forms of displays and educational materials, as well as a formal archaeological report.
The archaeological dig was carried out as part of the first phase of the multi-million-pound campus.
King’s High is moving from its site in the centre of Warwick to the same site as Warwick School.
Stuart Palmer, Archaeology Warwickshire’s principal archaeologist, said: “This new discovery will put Roman Warwick firmly on the map.”
Caroline Rann, who has been leading the winter-long excavation, added: “Very rarely do archaeologists discover a new villa, and this fantastic building could never have been predicted.
“Thanks to the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation and their construction team, Speller Metcalfe, who have gone out of their way to assist us, we can now start to build a better picture of Roman Warwick.’
Simon Jones, secretary for Warwick Independent Schools Foundation, which runs King’s High and Warwick School, said: “This is an exciting find and an invaluable experience for the schools, with pupils and staff having had opportunities to see the excavations at first hand.
“The county archaeologist’s team have been only too happy to share their enthusiasm and worked with us to ensure the find has not had undue impact on POC progress.
“The find will become part of the history of the new school building and of the foundation as a whole and will, we hope, inspire budding archaeologists for generations to come.”