Out of bad comes good! Co-op ram raid unwittingly unearths historic ‘evil influences’ cauldron

CAT archaeologists Sarah Carter and Ben Holloway with the remains of a brick plinth that would have

CAT archaeologists Sarah Carter and Ben Holloway with the remains of a brick plinth that would have originally supported the timber frame of the 16th-century house Picture: COLCHESTER ARCHAEOLOGICAL TRUST - Credit: COLCHESTER ARCHAEOLOGICAL TRUST

It was probably not what a gang of criminals had thought they would help uncover when they ram raided a quiet convenience store.

But a crime scene soon turned into a hotbed of archaeological discovery when those helping to prepare the shop for repairs stumbled upon a series of previously unknown historic gems.

The early-morning raid at the East of England Co-op store in Dedham, in December 2017, meant builders had to commission an archaeological report in order to get planning permission for repairs.

Unexpectedly the Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT) found a treasure trove of historic items, including a two-handled tripod cauldron dating from the late 16th to early 18th century – which, according to CAT, may be an apotropaic deposit intended to prevent evil influences entering the house.

The report also reveals that the timber-framed structure, built in 1520, is home to timber joisting and beams of the “finest ever seen by the historic architect”, as well as remnants of an internal porch – a common feature in the Low Countries, in the 15th century, but rarely found in England before the Elizabethan period.

In addition, the archaeologists revealed a medieval hearth that predated the surviving buildings.

Councillor Tim Young, portfolio holder for business and culture at Colchester Borough Council, said: “This is a very positive story about something great for the heritage of the borough, coming out of an apparent disaster.

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“Celebrating our heritage is part of our commitment to making a better Colchester and I am pleased that a hidden piece of our heritage has come to light through this initially unfortunate incident.”

Dr Jess Tipper, Colchester Borough Council archaeologist, added: “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.”

Nick Denny, joint chief executive for the East of England Co-op, said: “We are delighted that the findings have helped give a further insight into this historical and wonderful village.”

The East of England Co-op store on the High Street, Dedham, will reopen on Tuesday, October 30 at 9am.

It is one of a series of convenience stores across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex that have been targeted in daring ram raids.

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