THE remains of a army barracks dating back to the Napoleonic-era have been uncovered during an excavation in Weeley.

More than 4,000 soldiers were based in the village to help defend the coast from the threat of French invasion from 1803 to 1814.

The barracks, which were built to garrison Clacton's Martello Towers, had been home to soldiers, their families and 220 cavalry horses.

With the abdication of Napoleon in 1814, it was thought redundant and was demolished.

After 200 years of ploughing, it was doubtful whether anything had survived.

But thanks to an excavation by Oxford Archaeology East and RPS Consulting over the past five months, archaeologists have identified 16 buildings, roadways, drainage systems and an array of military-related finds.

The excavation was carried out as a planning condition ahead of the building of a residential and mixed-use development by Rose Builders.

Louise Moan, senior project manager, said “It’s not very often that we get a chance to investigate a site of this age.

"So it’s been really exciting unpicking the findings and being able to tie these to historical documentation so that we get an

understanding of the people stationed here and what it was like living at the barracks”.

The artefacts found at Weeley Barracks give a tantalising insight into the people who were stationed there.

These include a buckle plate with J.T Miller scored into it, as well as a press seal showing a man’s head wearing a military helmet.

Fragments of pottery with a neoclassical design were also recovered, as well as a concentration of Roman and Iron Age features, such as a large circular ditch.

Now the excavations have come to an end, the finds are being processed at Oxford Archaeology’s office in Cambridgeshire, before being sent to specialists to identify and make recommendations for further analysis.

Nick Cooke, director of heritage at RSP Consulting, said “From the beginning it was clear that we were dealing with an unusual site.

"Temporary Napoleonic barracks such as Weeley have rarely been investigated archaeologically, and it was imperative that we designed a programme of works which allowed us to investigate it thoroughly."