Ram-raiders accidentally uncover archaeological treasure trove after breaking into Essex supermarket

16th century cauldron and medieval hearth uncovered

Zamira Rahim
Friday 26 October 2018 09:24
Archaeologists examine the site in Essex
Archaeologists examine the site in Essex

Ram-raiders who attacked a store in Essex, only to flee empty handed, unwittingly helped to uncover medieval and Tudor artefacts buried underneath the shop floor.

The East of England Co-op store in Dedham suffered major structural damage when the raiders drove a Toyota Hilux into it during the early hours of 10 December 2017.

A spokesperson from Essex Police said that the suspects fled the scene in a second vehicle. No arrests have been made in connection with the crime.

Major damage was caused to a section of shop front dating from the 1950s. The timber-framed building was originally built in 1520 as a merchants' house.

The incident led the Co-op to commission archaeologists to examine the building and to carry out a dig beneath its floor.

They found a medieval hearth, which pre-dated the surviving buildings as well as the remains of an internal porch, a feature rarely found in England before the Elizabethan period.

Archaeologists also uncovered a two-handled tripod cauldron dating from the late 16th to early 18th century.

The cauldron was buried near the building's original entrances and may have been intended to prevent evil influences entering the house, Colchester Archaeological Trust said.

An architectural historian, who worked on the excavation, added that the building's timber joisting and beams were the finest that the group had ever seen.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

“We are delighted with the evidence these reports have revealed about the rich history of this important part of the borough and the wealthy merchants who lived and traded there," Dr Jess Tipper, an archaeologist for Colchester Borough Council, said.

The shop was moved into a barn after the raid but will re-open at its high street site on Tuesday.

Its security has been boosted, with concealed steel now embedded into the shop front.

Additional reporting by agencies.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in