9th March 2018:

Oxford Archaeology has begun excavation at a St Albans primary school which lies within the major Roman municipal town of Verulamium.

The excavation is taking place in the grounds of St Michael’s Primary School ahead of the construction of two new classrooms. The Roman town of Verulamium has been extensively excavated since the 18th century and several important urban public and private buildings are known to have stood in the vicinity of St Michael’s Street, including the forum-basilica, a theatre, and several temples.

Archaeological investigations within the grounds of St Michael’s date back to 1853 when Roman structural remains were observed during the initial building of the school. In 1955, extension work at the rear of the school located the north-east entrance to the Roman basilica from Watling Street. Fragments of a large inscribed dedication slab were found and are thought to have been attached to the basilica of Verulamium. The inscription has been tentatively dated to AD 79 and marks the town’s reconstruction and expansion after the destruction of the Boudiccan Revolt. It is now on display at Verulamium Museum, opposite St Michael’s School.

A ground penetrating radar survey conducted last year identified potential structural remains under the footprint of the new classrooms. The tarmac and modern disturbance has been removed using a mini digger and a team from OA East have commenced hand excavation of the ground underneath in preparation for the new building foundations. We are excited to reveal that they have found part of the basilica and portico walls originally excavated by Shepherd Frere in the 1950s.

Excavation continues on site in the coming weeks. Staff and students at St Michael’s School are following the archaeologists’ progress with enormous interest and will be joined by OA East’s outreach team later in the month for a day of fun hands-on activities to learn more about archaeology and the discoveries underneath their school.