VOLUNTEERS are needed to help excavations at one of Colchester’s most important archaeological sites.

Archaeologists are set to begin excavations at the old Essex County Hospital site in Lexden Road next week as part of preparatory work for the proposed redevelopment of the site, where 120 homes are planned.

A team of volunteers are being sought to process finds and join the excavation process, which is being led by Colchester Archaeological Trust.

The digs, which are being commissioned and funded by Essex County Council’s housing firm Essex Housing, will also be opened up to the public in the spring.

Gwyn Owen, head of Essex Housing, said: “The Essex County Hospital site could have a rich archaeological value and major finds have been discovered there in the past.“The proposed redevelopment of the site offers an opportunity to investigate the remains and artefacts that may still be there.

“Given the enthusiasm of residents for Colchester’s unique Roman heritage, we were keen to provide the public with the chance to share in the excitement of the excavation.”

In 1821, a stone sphinx was found in the garden of the former healthcare facility, which was then the town’s general hospital.

Dubbed the Colchester Sphinx, the statue is believed to have been part of an elaborate Roman tomb as the site was considered the most prestigious place to be buried during this period.

The site is also just south of the main Roman road to London and St Albans.

Adam Wightman, of Colchester Archaeological Trust, said: “We are greatly looking forward to investigating the site in light of the extraordinary previous discoveries and are grateful to Essex Housing and the hospital trust for enabling us to hold open days for the public.”

The dig opens on Monday in front of main hospital building.

Volunteers looking to take part must be available on weekdays.

Provisional dates for the public open days are set for March 7, 28 and May 2.

Visit thecolchesterarchaeologist.co.uk.