Archaeologists working at The Queen’s School in Chester have discovered Roman artefacts and part of the original gaol building’s wall and foundations during a dig. The site on City Walls Road used to be the City Gaol but was turned into a school for girls more than 130 years ago.
Work is currently taking place on the school’s gymnasium to create another floor and improve accessibility and changing facilities as part of the school’s fitness for all strategy.
Because archaeologists consider the site significant, they dug three trial pits and observed two trenches while work was ongoing. Both trenches produced Roman tile and Roman ceramics were found in one. Within one of the trenches a sandstone wall was also uncovered which is thought to date to the time of the former gaol and one of the test pits uncovered the sandstone foundations.
In another trench to the front of the gym, archaeologists uncovered a former cobbled schoolyard, drain, kerb and red brick wall, which were removed, revealing substantial red brick and sandstone foundations of the eastern gable and perimeter walls of one of the airing yards belonging to the former prison.
Richard Cooke of Aeon Archaeology said: “The archaeological work at The Queen’s School has for the first time provided the opportunity to record a part of the foundations of the former Chester City Gaol and House of Correction building. Historic mapping was used to exactly pinpoint which part of the former prison foundations we had found at the school and this provided an important insight into a part of Chester’s fascinating but dark history.”
The school’s head of history Nia Tunnicliffe said: “Having a real archaeological dig going on on-site has been hugely exciting for us all. Knowing that we are walking around in a building that is steeped in these layers of history, really brings learning to life.”