Amphora Place reflects area's rich history

Leading Essex law firm Birkett Long’s recent move to new offices at Amphora Place in Colchester has prompted a flood of questions from curious clients about the name of the new building.

But Philip Crummy, Director of Colchester Archaeological Trust, explains the importance of the Roman amphora to the history of the Sheepen area, where the new offices are sited in Sheepen Road.

An amphora was found near the site as early as 1889 when houses were being built further along Sheepen Road. Subsequent excavations between the 1930s and 1970 revealed fragments of hundreds of amphorae in the area.

Mr Crummy explained that amphorae were large ceramic containers with two handles, from various countries around the northern and eastern Mediterranean, manufactured in significant numbers for importing mainly wine and olive oil into Britain.

“Some of the amphorae were re-used for Roman burials. They were buried upright and used as a burial chamber containing cremated human remains, alongside food, drink, bowls and jugs and sometimes lamps,” said Mr Crummy.

He explained the Sheepen area housed a large settlement in pre-Roman Camulodunum – with the Sheepen dyke built to defend it. Pre-Roman pottery and coins have been found in the area.

But, said Mr Crummy, most of the amphorae remains date from the period between the Roman conquest in AD43 and the Boudiccan revolt in AD61. They give a fascinating insight into the economic history of the area during the Roman occupation and the extent of the trade with the continent.

Managing Partner Adrian Livesley from Birkett Long said: “While our new address has prompted a lot of enquiries about Amphora, our clients have responded positively when we explained some of the rich history reflected in the name – as well as welcoming the excellent facilities and accessibility of our new home.”

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