Roman villa uncovered on Priors Hall estate wins prestigious archaeology award

The excavation proved that the site was more important than previously thought

By Kate Cronin
Saturday, 12th March 2022, 6:27 am
The team during the incredible dig at Priors Hall
The team during the incredible dig at Priors Hall

A piece of late Roman industrial heritage uncovered by archaeologists on a Corby building site has won a prestigious award.

Oxford Archaeology East’s excavation of the Romano-Celtic temple-mausoleum at Priors Hall has won Current Archaeology’s prestigious Rescue Project of the Year award for 2022.

The group of experts uncovered the densely-populated Late Romano-British industrial landscape within a Roman villa estate as the site was being excavated for the next stage of the Priors Hall estate.

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The works, undertaken as part of a wider scheme of archaeological investigation ahead development, revealed that the area was far more significant than previous excavations had suggested.

Shedding dramatic light on the site’s Roman roots, the discoveries have provided rare insights into the construction and economic life of a Roman villa, the evolution of industry on the site – and the key discovery was a square limestone building interpreted as a mausoleum, thought to date to the late 2nd to 3rd century.

This tomb was later transformed into a tilery, in a dramatic change of purpose.

Voted for by subscribers and members of the public, Current Archaeology’s awards recognise the outstanding contributions to our understanding of the past made by the people, projects, and publications featured in the pages of Current Archaeology over the previous 12 months.

Paddy Lambert, OA East’s Project Officer who supervised the excavation, says “I am truly delighted that we have won such a prestigious award. The archaeology at Priors Hall has the potential to overhaul our understanding of a pivotal time in both regional and national history, and it is heartening to see how this has captured the public imagination.

"Thanks to all of the people who voted and to all the staff who worked on the site to a standard the Romans themselves would have admired!”

Nick Gilmour, Senior Project Manager at OA East who managed the project, said: "I'm so pleased with this award as it recognises the importance of the work done on the site and the effort put in by everyone involved, including those from Urban and Civic who supported us throughout the project, and the late Lesley-Ann Mather who provided invaluable advice and encouragement.

"The OA East team have dedicated the award to the memory of Lesley-Ann Mather (1967-2020), Archaeological Advisor for Northamptonshire County Council. She monitored the excavation and was a hugely supportive and enthusiastic advocate for the importance of this site."

The villa itself has now been designated an Archaeological Preservation Area (APA) and, as a significant heritage asset, will be left in situ, kept as a green space that will help to facilitate a shared sense of identity for the modern community who will come to call the site home.

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‘Entirely unexpected’ Roman industrial complex unearthed at Corby’s Priors Hall ...