Protestors opposed to the Cultural Quarter development are in hot water after taking a series of historical artefacts from the area without permission.

Councillor Darius Laws (Conservative, Castle Ward) raised the issue at a meeting of Colchester Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday and asked the council to collectively condemn the mischief-makers’ light-fingered actions.

Campaigners against plans for student accommodation in the area quickly moved to apologise but the Colchester Council ruling administration agreed taking historic treasures was an unacceptable way to make a political point.

Mr Laws said it was the equivalent of night hawking - a term used by the UK’s metal detecting community to describe the theft of archaeological artifacts.

“I want to be really clear in discouraging anyone from doing this kind of thing,” he said.

“Without the context and the items being recorded and photographed you lose that picture of what was there before. I think making a political point, however well meant, is not acceptable in this way.

“I wanted the Cabinet to know and I want us to be unified as councillors to condemn this. Anyone who is near the site or any potential building site, especially within the Roman walls, needs to be respectful of this and leave the Time Team work to the professionals.”

Campaigner Victoria Weaver was present at the meeting admitted her involvement in the removal of the items.

She insisted no digging took place and believes the items were churned to the top during the demolition or have been left behind from a previous excavation.

Miss Weaver added: “It will not be something I will be doing again.

“Next time I will make sure I know what the rules are around this kind of thing.

“I apologised to the council because I feel that is the right thing to do.”

The items, which include what is believed to be a piece of a Roman pot, bones, oyster shells and other pottery are being held safe whilst they are investigated by the Collections Office.


A picture of the items

A spokesman for Colchester Council said it would consider legal action.

He said: “We deplore the reckless and illicit removal of archaeological artefacts by the Painter’s Yard protesters.

“The value of these irreplaceable objects in helping to tell the story of Colchester’s unique past lies in the information they hold, which is determined by the precise location and other archaeological conditions in which they were discovered.

“By removing the artefacts, some of that information is now lost and has the potential to distort the archaeological signature of the area.

“We would urge these artefacts be handed over to the museums service or Colchester Archaeological Trust as soon as possible and people do not trespass on the site again.

“This is an illegal act upon which the council will con - sider prosecution, including a claim for any damages caused to the site or its contents.

“Moreover, entering the site also poses a serious health and safety risk.”