Technology set to reveal Roman barracks located under Chester Cathedral

July 11, 2016

A community archaeology project aims to reveal new secrets about the vast Roman barrack buildings buried under Chester Cathedral.

‘Waking the Legions’ will explore the Deanery Field north of Chester Cathedral, situated within the north east corner of the historic city walls. The site was once home to the vast barracks blocks which housed the Roman soldiers of the fortress of Deva, the largest Roman fortress in Britain.

Excavations in the 1920s and 1930s revealed Roman barrack blocks and associated buildings but less than a quarter of the site was uncovered. This new project aims to explore the rest of the site without physically disturbing the archaeology, with Magnetic and Resistivity Survey, plus Ground Penetrating Radar being used to see beneath the soil. It is thought that it’s the first time the technology has been used within the city walls.

Joanne Kirton, Project Manager at Big Heritage said: “This is an incredibly exciting project that uses technology to give us a deeper understanding into the buried archaeology underneath Deanery Field.  Most importantly for us, this is about the wider community actively participating and engaging in the city’s heritage, and we are inviting local people to sign up to take part in the actual survey. It is a great city partnership between Big Heritage, Chester Cathedral and the Grosvenor Museum.”

The event is being further enhanced with an exhibition on the original Deanery Field excavations, which will be based in the King Charles Tower on the city walls. It will include rare Roman and medieval finds from the 1930s excavations, kindly loaned by the Grosvenor Museum.

Liz Royles, Collections Officer at the Grosvenor Museum said: “We are very excited to be partnering up again with Big Heritage for the Waking the Legions project. It gives us a fantastic opportunity to check our existing information, find out lots more and share our collections with a wider audience.”

The project will form part of the Festival of Archaeology 2016, and has received support and funding from the Association of Roman Archaeology's Graham Webster Memorial Fund, the Council for Archaeology's Mick Aston Memorial Fund, set up in the memory of the late Time Team archaeologist and geophysical experts, Magnitude Surveys.

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Original 1930s excavation showing walls of Roman barracks (C) Grosvenor Museum


Original excavation of Deanery field in 1930s (C) Grosvenor Museum

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