Sunday, September 29, 2019


Archaeologists working on the redevelopment of Exeter’s bus station have uncovered the remains of a Roman fort. The find has been described by an archaeology expert as “very important and completely unexpected.” The finds, which include coins and local pottery made in the area for the military, as well as fine red Samian tableware imported from France will be studied, and the results published.

First to be uncovered was a Roman ditch at the top end of the site between Bampfylde Street and Cheeke Street. Further excavations revealed two further large Roman ditches running parallel to each other. Experts have revealed that these belong to a new, and completely unknown, Roman military site, either a fort occupied by a military unit, or a defended depot or compound.

Both are typical Roman military ditches. The outer, eastern one has a steep V shaped profile, with a deep “ankle breaker” trench along the bottom. The inner, western one is larger and deeper, and would have been immediately in front of a rampart above it to the west. It has a much steeper, near vertical, outer side, which was designed to trap any attackers who got this far and to leave them at the mercy of the defenders on the rampart above. It also has a deep ankle breaker trench. Below is a reconstruction drawing of what the fortress defences would have looked like (image courtesy of Exeter City Council's former Archaeological Field Unit).

"This discovery of yet another new Roman “fort” within the city does demonstrate, along with that of the fortress and baths back in the 1970s and of several other new major military sites in the last decade, just how pivotal a role the Exeter area played in the first decades of the Roman conquest and subjugation of Britain, and how crucial development led archaeology has been in revealing this.”


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