'Fascinating discovery' unearthed at Northamptonshire heritage site by university student

Culture and tourism

17 June 2024

One of the pots discovered at the Chester House estate

Six complete Roman pots were discovered at The Chester House Estate during archaeological excavations last June by a student at the University of Leicester.

Davidson Copeland, a third-year student at the University of Leicester, took part in the four-week long excavation at this nationally significant heritage site. It was his first time taking part in an excavation and he wasn’t expecting to find one complete pot, let alone six.

The pots have been analysed by archaeological ceramic specialist Dr Adam Sutton from Aurelius Archaeology, and have been confirmed as beakers, a small flagon, two jars, and an imported Samian ware bowl dated to the 2nd century AD.

The Samian ware bowl is particularly interesting, as this will have been imported from what is now modern France around c.AD 130 or just after, and is stamped with a mark which identifies the pot’s maker as Dexter who was working in central France during this time.

Within the Estate lies one of the best-preserved walled Roman small towns in Britain, known as Irchester. Excavations are taking place in the suburbs, revealing houses, workshops and cemeteries. The pots were discovered at the bottom of a deep pit in the suburbs suggesting they had been carefully placed.

The holes in the sides of some of the pots indicate they may have had a practical purpose such as money boxes or as a religious offering. The pots are available for viewing at the upcoming Roman Fest, taking place on Saturday 22 June and Sunday 23 June at the Estate.  

It is fantastic for our students and Chester House Estate volunteers to have the opportunity to work together at this nationally significant site. This fascinating discovery has generated huge interest and excitement amongst team members and visitors alike. Uncovering the pots was a painstaking process. The successful excavation was the result of exceptional teamwork and expert guidance. It was an incredible experience for our student Davidson, and we are very proud of his efforts.

The pots provide a tangible link to the past but have also sparked new friendships and a sense of community in the present. The ongoing investigations are a testament to the value of a collaborative approach to archaeological research. We welcome visitors on weekdays between 17 June and 12 July and during Roman Fest on 22 June and 23 June. We hope you will join us to view the pots, see excavations in progress and talk to our amazing team.
Sarah Scott, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Leicester

The Irchester Field School is a long-term collaborative project between the Estate and the University of Leicester that supports local community and school involvement in archaeological research, with finds such as this providing exciting insights into the lives of the town’s inhabitants.

The excavation is taking place between Monday 17 June and Friday 12 July, and is free for people who just want to come and see a live dig.

More information about getting involved with the summer excavation, the Irchester Field School programme and the history at The Chester House Estate is available online.