Archaeology students preparing to reveal more of Chester’s hidden past

Archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council and the University of Chester start their annual training dig in Grosvenor Park for the University’s 2nd year archaeology students on Thursday 2 May.


Grosvenor Park has been chosen because it sits next to two significant historical monuments, the Roman amphitheatre and the medieval Church of St John the Baptist. Both of these have had an influence on the development of the Park and more importantly on the intriguing archaeology that lies beneath.

During previous years students have discovered:  a Roman road leading across the Park to the amphitheatre, a large building destroyed during the English Civil War and two very wide ditches running north-south across the Park. The building seems to have been associated with St. John’s, probably part of the medieval hospital and chapel of St. Anne which was acquired by Sir Hugh Cholmondeley in the late 16th century and developed as part of his grand home in the city.

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This year the students want to discover more about the large building and to find more evidence for the civilian settlement that grew up around the Romans fortress. They want to find out more about the role of the ditches; did they mark the boundaries of areas of the city? They also hope to uncover evidence for the elusive Saxon Chester.

Lisa Harris, Director of Places Strategy, Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “We are delighted once again to take part in this partnership project with the University of Chester. It will not only provide essential experience for the students but also reinforce our commitment to making the historic environment of west Cheshire a great place in which to live and visit.”

The training dig is open for public viewing from May 2 until May 31, 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays and between 12.30pm – 1.30pm).

The site will also be open to view on Sunday 2 June during Deva Triathlon. An Open Afternoon will be taking place 1pm to 4.30pm on May 29 giving the chance to see first-hand what the students have found and to learn more about the archaeology of this corner of Chester.

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Said Dr Amy Gray Jones, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Chester: “It’s with great excitement that our students start a new season of excavation in Grosvenor Park. As an integral part of their archaeology degree it provides a great opportunity for them to develop their skills and experience whilst their discoveries bring them face to face with the changing nature of life in Chester over its long history. We’re particularly eager to find out more about the mysterious ditches uncovered last year and whether they can add to our knowledge of the immediate post-Roman occupation of Chester which is much less well understood.”

The training dig is a partnership project between the archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cultural Service (Grosvenor Museum) and the University of Chester and is an essential part of the students’ archaeology degree course.

Further information and updates will be available on the students’ Dig Blog during the excavation at the website here.

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