ARCHAEOLOGISTS have opened the former site of Essex County Hospital to members of the public for the first time in two years to share progress on the excavations.

Led by excavations manager Adam Wightman, the sessions – which were open to the public on Friday and Saturday – allowed people to take a look at the work which has gone on behind closed doors since March 2020.

The former hospital site, which is in Lexden Road, closed permanently in 2018 , with plans for 120 homes on the site approved two years later.

Before construction begins on the new housing development, however, Colchester Archaeological Trust has been allowed to excavate significant portions of land surrounding the 19th century structure, with work ongoing since 2020.

Although it has been a fruitful two years of excavations, Mr Wightman told visitors on Friday no high status artefacts had been found.

Despite this, Roman finds have included the remains of at least 19 bread ovens, 70 Roman burials, and a large quantity of items such as pottery and glass vessels, jewellery and tools made from metals and animal bone.

Some of the key finds from the excavations can be viewed in an exhibition at the Roman Circus Centre.

Mr Wightman explained to visitors that some of the most famous artefacts, such as the Roman sphinx, had been discovered by antiquarians as far back as the 19th century, when the hospital was originally being constructed.

But no artefacts of a similar status had been found on the northern and southern areas of the hospital although Mr Wightman added there may well be significant artefacts underneath the hospital building itself.

With an agreement in place that old building must be preserved, however, it is not possible for any excavations to be made under the former hospital itself.

Adam Wightman, of Colchester Archaeological Trust, said: “We hope to learn more still and are grateful to Essex Housing to be able to share this with the public again.”