All roads lead to Chipping Ongar: dig points to a hidden Roman town

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The Independent Online

An undiscovered Roman town may exist in south-west Essex, according to archaeological evidence being uncovered in London.

An undiscovered Roman town may exist in south-west Essex, according to archaeological evidence being uncovered in London.

A large Roman road has been found heading out of London towards what is now the village of Chipping Ongar, 11 miles west of Chelmsford.

Archaeological evidence suggests Chipping Ongar was an important communications hub in Roman times and probably the site of a small town.

Excavations in Leyton in the London Borough of Waltham Forest have unearthed a Roman highway with a gravel surface about six metres wide. Roman wheel ruts have been found in the road surface. Two metre-wide drainage ditches run either side of the road.

The highway was probably built for military purposes, but would have also served small towns and large country estates.

At Chipping Ongar, the road appears tochange direction towards the small Roman town located at what is now Great Dunmow, 22 miles west of the important Roman city of Camulodunum (Colchester).

The road was discovered by developers building and refurbishing houses and flats as part of a seven-year, £15.2m housing programme.

It is likely this road was built soon after the Romans conquered south-east Britain AD43 and was in use for several hundred years. The Romans constructed a network of roads andtowns and,although most have been located, a number of towns known from ancient literary sources have never been found.

The excavations are being carried out by the contractors Pre-Construct Archaeology for the John Laing Partnership.

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