ARCHAEOLOGICAL excavations have revealed a busy Medieval pottery operation existed in north Colchester.

Excavation work is taking place on fields off Nayland Road, Colchester, where developer Mersea Homes is due to build hundreds of homes.

As a condition of the planning permission from Colchester Council, the developer was asked to commission the excavation.

It has been taking place on a slice of land measuring about 150 by 50 metres over the past six weeks by the Colchester Archaeological Trust.

The team has been painstakingly using hand tools to uncover a rare pottery kiln dating back to the 15th century and pottery which would have been discarded if it was not deemed up to standard.

Philip Crummy, the trust’s director, said: “What happens is whenever there is a big development, Colchester Council’s archaeological officer looks at the planning application and consults a big database of finds in Colchester.

“If it looks like there have been some remains they will request archaeological work.

“This a huge development so is what’s happening in this case.

“It was known before we started there were remains of medieval kilns found in the 1970s.

“So we then did some trenching and a magnetometry survey with a special machine to measure magnetic activity in the ground.”

Mr Crummy likened the machine to a lawn mower. Its readings highlighted a white mass under the ground.

He added: “We could see it looked to be a pottery kiln.”

The kiln would have been stoked by wood from nearby trees to produce water pots, for example.

Mr Crummy said while about 40 Roman kilns had been found around Colchester this one, which is well preserved, is a rare find in Colchester.

The findings also indicate the site, close to Cants rose growers, would have been quite an industry.

“There was one like this many years ago in Highwoods but this, as a whole area, was quite busy.

“We don’t normally see this kind of arrangement at Medieval sites - we have got quite a cluster.”

Excavation work is due to continue for a few more days but Mr Crummy said the project had been challenging because of how much clay there was to work through.

However, he said the time of year was perfect as the ground would be too hard in summer.

Dr Jess Tipper, Colchester Council’s archaeological advisor, added: “We will record it, produce a report and hopefully have a display of the finds in the Castle Museum.

“At this stage, that’s to be negotiated but something like this is worth promoting and displaying.

“It is really good because we will be able to tie down some of the pottery in the town to where it actually came from.”

The development site, called Chesterwell, will total 1,600 homes, and will span across 15 years.