Roman basilica and portico uncovered beneath St Albans primary school
PUBLISHED: 17:00 29 March 2018
Historically significant Roman ruins have been discovered underneath a primary school in St Albans.
Archaelogists discovered coins, fragments and ruins dating back to the late Roman period during a dig at St Michael’s School, near the Verulamium Museum, earlier this month. The school is undergoing redevelopment work to expand to a one-form entry school in September, and the archaeologists were called to oversee the dig alongside the builders.
The archaeologists, led by James Fairbairn from Oxford Archaeology, unearthed the corner of the main facade of the basilica, dating from 79AD, and the late Roman portico.
Oxford archaeologist Clemency Cooper shared the finds with the St Michael’s children, which included six Roman coins, the handle of an amphora (Roman vase) and a tile revealing the paw print of a Roman dog.
Over the next week, the children will be taken onto the site to see the basilica and portico for themselves.
These discoveries add to the small amount information already known about the site from the 1955 excavation by Sheppard Frere, which unveiled fragments of the inscription stone from the Forum, now on display at the Verulamium Museum.
St Michael’s headteacher Alison Rafferty said: “We are delighted that our project at St Michael’s has unearthed such amazing secrets of national significance. It is incredible to think St Michael’s children have been playing football on top of a Roman basilica for years!
“We are working closely with Historic England, our architect and builders to ensure that the sensitive construction of the classrooms can help to preserve these finds ‘in situ’.
“We are also looking at ways to incorporate a viewing area within the classrooms to bring this living history into the educational provision at St Michael’s for future generations.”
Cllr Annie Brewster, portfolio holder for sport, leisure and heritage, said: “These are very exciting and extraordinary discoveries, made only a few yards away from our Roman Museum. It is especially pleasing that St Michael’s school children have been involved as it will educate them about the amazing history of their city.”
The school plans to hold an open day this Saturday between 10am and 3pm so members of the public can view the site.