Friday, 2 January 2009

Roman dig at Caxton House

Archaeologists will dig up part of a Clerkenwell building site before a 12-storey office block is allowed to go up due to fears it could pose a threat to an ancient Roman burial site.

While it was well known that the site in Farringdon Road, opposite Smithfield Market, was once part of the “Western Cemetery” of Roman London – potentially containing 200 bodies – archaeologists have never been able to get at the plot.

Earlier this month planning chiefs approved a scheme to demolish the 1960s Caxton House office block and car park, to make way for an environmentally friendly design that will boast a green roof and 112 cycle racks.

The site was also the scene of a fatal V2 rocket attack during the Second World War and the new development will feature a commemorative plaque.

Developers BPP Ltd found that any excavation to the basement car park would have a minimal impact. But they have been ordered to get their hands dirty as a condition on the development.

Under the plans, the current basement car park will be deepened by up to two metres.
As part of the deal, under a Section 106 agreement, the developer has agreed to put up £700,000 towards environmental and streetscape improvements and £500,00 to fund off-site affordable housing schemes.

A council spokesman said: “The condition is not unusual for these kinds of developments. If anything gets demolished in the area, because of its history, archaeologists would be expected to do a dig.”

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