The renovation of the former Jacks store is a project close to the heart of many Colcestrians, due to the history of the building and memories of the hardware store that was previously established there for many years.
Jacks has been undergoing a facelift since early 2019; to enable its new lease of life as an expansion of Three Wise Monkeys, and as a new home for Other Monkey Brewing. The project to renovate the building is being managed by specialists from Colchester Amphora Trading, on behalf of Colchester Borough Council.
During the excavation work by the Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT) underneath the 15th Century building, several important archaeological discoveries were made, the major discovery being the remains of a significant Roman bath house. Hollow ceramic flues were found which would have been used to line the walls and floors of the ‘hot room’, the ‘warm room’ and sauna-like room (all essential components of substantial Roman baths) so that hot air could circulate and heat the spaces. Several other artefacts were also discovered, confirming the nature of the buried building remains as a bath house.
Due to the cramped area deep underground in which the excavations have been done, it has not been possible to provide public access to the remains in situ. Works on site have revealed the poor condition of much of the fabric of the Jacks building, and complex remedial works are currently underway to stabilise it and make it safe.
However, the Colchester Archaeological Trust will be creating a temporary exhibition of these historic Roman articles at the Roman Circus Centre, commencing on Tuesday 6 August, with the objects on display until the Centre closes for the season on Saturday 28 September 2019. This will include a selection of objects from the site and a giant life-size paper reconstruction of Shaft C, one of the six such shafts dug by CAT all of which reached down over 3 metres in depth. There are subsequent plans to house the artefacts elsewhere permanently at a later date.
Deputy Leader of Colchester Borough Council, and Portfolio Holder for Culture and Performance Councillor Julie Young added:
“This is a hugely important discovery for Colchester, as another piece of the fascinating jigsaw puzzle that is our wonderful Roman history falls into place with the significant discovery of this ancient bath house.”
Philip Crummy of the Colchester Archaeological Trust commented on the significant discoveries:
“Major Roman towns across the Roman Empire shared the same suite of public buildings and services. We already knew that Roman Colchester had a theatre (two in fact), many temples, a forum, a circus, town walls, a pressurised water supply, and a robust public drainage system. To this impressive list, we can now add a major public bath house. A lot more work in future will be needed to find out about the layout and development of the building but, thanks to Jacks, we can now at least be sure where it stood (immediately south of the famous Temple of Claudius) and where its main heated rooms were located. This a very exciting step forward in the exploration of Britain’s earliest Roman town!”
Dr Jess Tipper, Archaeological Advisor at Colchester Borough Council said
“The keyhole investigations have provided a rare opportunity to investigate the important archaeological remains in the centre of the town. Deep (2.5m), well-preserved archaeological deposits that have accumulated over 2000 years of occupation have been recorded, including evidence of a Roman bath house, as well as evidence of the Boudiccan revolt that resulted in the destruction of Colchester in AD 61. The earliest phase of timber-framed building that is Jacks dates from the mid-15th century and the remains of a later brick cellar, built on top of an earlier Roman wall, was also discovered during the renovation works.”