Unique Roman complex found in Scarborough

A large Roman complex that is the first of its kind ever found in Britain and could well be unique in the entire empire has been unearthed in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. It was uncovered during an archaeological excavation at the site of a planned real estate development. A geophysical survey indicated the presence of something of interest under the surface, but archaeologists had no idea how remarkable that something would prove be.

The floorplan of the structures unearthed so far is about the size of two tennis courts. The layout of the complex is what makes it so unusual. There is a cylindrical central room/tower with four rectangular rooms leading off of it left, right, top and bottom, forming a rough cross shape. There is also a bathhouse and other structures. Archaeologists hypothesize that it was a luxurious elite villa or perhaps a religious sanctuary. It may have been both at different times.

Karl Battersby, corporate director, business and environmental services at 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.”

The find is so significant that Historic England will recommend it be granted protected scheduled monument status. The developers have already gone back to the drawing board and redesigned the housing estate so that the archaeological remains will be part of a public greenspace that was originally going to be somewhere else on the property.

2 thoughts on “Unique Roman complex found in Scarborough

  1. Amazing!

    It looks to me that some time in the Roman period they built a standard rectangular building motifs, trashed that and then built some massive circular structures with rectangular bits, but on a different alignment to the previous building, and then, most interestingly, they expanded one of the attached rooms and aligned its end wall with the previous structure.

    Why the latter? Was there something in that space that dated from the original building that could not be disturbed?

  2. Have a look at the 2nd picture in the linked article. Apparently, the complex also enlarges towards “to the right” (east?).

    Indeed, it would be interesting to know about different phases that might have existed. My initial impression was that of an industrial site, but we might have a villa or housing complex here.

    At least the left rectangular room to the “cylindrical central tower” seems to have been connected to a “hypocaust(um)” central heating system, of which the starting point might have been in the lower “original” rooms.

    Maybe, the idea of that “distortion” had been that the generated heat –slowly but steadily– had to “spiral” up through the floors.


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