A HERITAGE boss at Colchester Council admitted it was "a mistake" for a Roman water feature to have been destroyed supposedly while in its safe keeping.

The blunder happened 12 years ago but only came to light last week.

Sir Bob Russell, Colchester’s High Steward, was outraged to learn from town historians the water feature had been put in a car park where it disintegrated.

But Philip Wise, heritage manager at Colchester Council, said: "The thing to bear in mind is it [the water feature] was lifted in good faith but at that stage it was very clear that it was in a shocking state and when it was lifted there was a huge crack.

"The weight of the structure was not adequately supported."

Mr Wise was curator of archaeology at Colchester Museums at the time of the excavation.

Referring to the storage of the water feature, he said: "We had not got a space big enough to put it inside so it was put outside. An effort was made to preserve it outside.

"In archaeology in Britain we take a position where we try and do the best we can for heritage. Since 1992, it has been to preserve archaeological objects in situ.

"This was an exceptional circumstance. The archaeologists and the council at the time were doing something that was quite unusual and it didn't prove to be the right decision."

Asked who was responsible for storing the object, he added: "It was probably a decision that everyone with an interest in the town's heritage at the time took collectively.

"With the benefit of hindsight, it was a mistake."

Sir Bob said: “The garden water feature should have been put somewhere safe, and a covered location found where it could have been put on display as a rare example – certainly the only example in Colchester – of how Roman civilisation clearly involved people having a love of gardens almost 2,000 years ago.”