Local authorities in North Yorkshire have welcomed the ‘remarkable discovery’ of rare Roman remains at a housing development site.
The potential for Iron Age and Roman remains had been identified at the site in Eastfield, Scarborough, so archaeologists employed by the developer Keepmoat carried out excavations as part of the agreed planning conditions set out by Scarborough Borough Council.
The excavations revealed a large complex of buildings including a circular central room with a number of rooms leading off it, as well as a bath house.
Archaeology experts believe they are likely to represent a high-status luxury Roman villa or religious sanctuary, or perhaps a combination of both.
This type of building layout has never been seen before in Britain and could even be the first of its kind to be discovered within the whole former Roman Empire.
Working in partnership with Historic England, North Yorkshire County Council and Scarborough Council, Keepmoat has modified its design for the housing development to protect the remains.
In the original application, houses would have been built over the site, but following discussion, the public open space within the development has been relocated to cover and conserve the core of the Roman structural remains.
Karl Battersby, corporate director, Business and Environmental Services, North Yorkshire County Council, said: ‘This is a remarkable discovery which adds to the story of Roman settlement in North Yorkshire.
‘Work by North Yorkshire archaeologists has already established the buildings were designed by the highest quality architects in Northern Europe in the era and constructed by the finest craftsmen.
‘Because of the significance of this, it is excellent to see that the layout of the new housing has been redesigned so this important part of our history can be preserved. There will be further work on the finds and environmental samples to try to establish exactly what this enigmatic site was and why it was created so far from other Roman centres.’
David Walker, Scarborough Borough Council Planning Manager, commented: ‘We are pleased to grant a change to Keepmoat’s original planning application to accommodate the preservation of this nationally important archaeological find.
‘In creating new homes for future generations, it is only right that we keep alive the fascinating history of those that went before us and how they lived.’
Historic England will recommend that the remains be protected as a nationally important Scheduled Monument and will grant aid for the additional archaeological work.
Keith Emerick, inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England, said: ‘These archaeological remains are a fantastic find and are far more than we ever dreamed of discovering at this site.
‘They are already giving us a better knowledge and understanding of Roman Britain. We are grateful to Keepmoat Homes for their sensitive and professional approach to helping ensure the future conservation of this important historical site.’
David Connole, head of technical at Keepmoat Homes, said: ‘We have listened to and continue to work collaboratively with Historic England, North Yorkshire County Council and Scarborough Borough Council to ensure the development proposals and the guidance for investigating and protecting the remains for future generations is followed.’