Roman discovery during excavations in Verulamium Park

The cremation urn discovered during excavation work in Verulamium Park.

The cremation urn discovered during excavation work in Verulamium Park. - Credit: SADC

It's said that you can't dig a hole in St Albans without coming across a Roman artefact, an adage which proved to be true during work at the site of two new all-weather tennis and netball courts in Verulamium Park.

A cremation urn was discovered during excavation work beside the Abbey View Athletics Track, which lies within the ancient Roman city of Verulamium.

Contractors building the courts have removed around 650 cubic meters of spoil to a depth of around 1.2 meters, giving experts an opportunity to see if they could uncover any interesting or valuable Roman remains.

St Albans district council (SADC) hired KDK Archaeology to carry out the investigations and they are now analysing several discoveries.

The main feature on the site appears to be part of a gravel quarry which has later silted over to form a pond or lake.

Its full size is unknown as it extended beyond the southern and western limits of the excavation, but it was at least 16.5m by 23m.

Also present was an urned cremation - bone fragments and charcoal collected from a funeral pyre and buried in a pot.

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Samples of the charcoal or bone will be sent for carbon dating while the remains of the urn will be analysed by a pottery specialist.

David Kaye from KDK Archaeology said: “This is a relatively small site but being located in Verulamium it was important to excavate here.

“The quarry and cremation are probably Roman, and their presence has given us a further small insight into the activities of the people of Roman St Albans.”

SADC, which owns the park, is building the courts on unused land to replace three aged courts which were converted into a children’s play area two years ago.

They will be available for all to hire and are intended to encourage players to take up the game and progress to the indoor courts at Batchwood Sports Centre.

They will be marked out for netball, suitable for wheelchair users and are scheduled to open by the end of this summer.