TREASURES have been found by archaeologists carrying out a dig underneath Colchester’s Mercury Theatre.

Colchester Archaeological Society has unearthed the pavements and remains of a Roman house and a relic of the 1648 Siege of Colchester - a musket ball.

Excavations began earlier this month to make way for the theatre to be partially demolished, rebuilt and improved.

Philip Crummy, director of Colchester Archaeological Trust, said: “We started work on site on November 12, the aim being to expose the uppermost surviving remains.

“Very quickly, early sightings were made of what should prove to be an extensive expanse of Roman pavements which once adorned the rooms of a substantial Roman house.

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“Small fragments of broken wall plaster lie in a jumbled mass on them. Their multicoloured painted faces show that the walls had been intricately decorated with bright patterns.

“The debris belongs to the days or possibly even years after the last occupants left their house to its fate - demolition or gradual decline as an abandoned ruin.”

The site of the Mercury Theatre has been earmarked as an archaeological hotspot for many years. Previous investigations have revealed well-preserved floors and foundations of Roman houses.

Mr Crummy said: “The results of the work so far have not all been about Roman Colchester.

“In one place, we have found, to our surprise, an area of ground which had been intensely burnt in medieval times. Reddened neatly-laid surfaces of stone and tile appear to be the remains of a hearth.

“The problem with this interpretation is that there are no indication of the house or workshop in which the hearth was located.

“An early find, not so old but still interesting, is a lead musket ball, a relic of the English Civil War when, in 1648, Colchester was the scene of a desperate eleven-week-long siege.”

Work on demolishing the Mercury began earlier this month and the project is expected to be completed next year.

The purpose of the archaeological investigation is to record what archaeological remains survive below ground, and to prevent damage during the forthcoming building works.

People can visit the dig site on Saturday, December 8. Go to