Bones found by workmen digging on Cheam Road in Epsom

Epsom Guardian: The site on Cheam Road, Epsom The site on Cheam Road, Epsom

Human bones have been found on the site of a former car showroom, the Epsom Guardian can exclusively reveal.

Workmen unearthed the remains alongside a piece of Roman pottery while digging on the site of Cheam Motors in Cheam Road, Epsom.

They were found about 2m below the surface, and a skull was reported to have disintegrated when lifted from the ground.

Police were informed and the bones taken to an archaeologist at Surrey County Council, with an expert also inspecting the site.

Following examination, they were declared “of archaeological interest” and Surrey Police closed its investigation.

Archaeologists employed by Linden Homes, which is redeveloping the land, carried out initial test digs in August because Ewell is rich in Roman and Saxon remains.

They found nothing of interest and it was not until work began on the site that the remains were discovered on November 19.

Gary Jackson, archaeological officer at Surrey County Council, said: “The brief summary I’ve received from the attending archaeologist noted a pocket of ground along the north-west perimeter of the site, which produced some disarticulated human bone as well as a roof tile and Roman pottery.

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“This area has been recorded and the finds retrieved for further analysis.”

Epsom and Ewell is noted for its rich Roman heritage, and Nikki Cowlard secretary of the Epsom and Ewell Archaeology and History society, said she suspected the remains might date from this time.

She said: “We know the Romans had a settlement in Epsom where they had a garrison and dwellings.

“The skull could be medieval, but as it was found with Roman pottery then I would say it was indeed Roman.”

The site is just a few metres from a Roman road called Stane Street, which acted as the main highway from Chichester into London.

Built in AD50, Stane Street, which is now part of the A29 and A24 from Ewell to North Cheam, allowed Ewell to became a major settlement in Roman Britain.

Mrs Cowlard added: “We know from prior archaeological evidence the Romans used to bury their dead outside the settlement and close to the road, which fits in well with where the bones were discovered.

“In the 1970s Roman remains were also found near to the site, so it could possibly be an ancient graveyard.”

The site, owned by Linden Homes, is being developed into 28 apartments and a retail unit. The car showroom previously on the site was erected in the early 1950s.

Dylan May, land director at Linden Homes South East region, said: “The human bone is likely to derive from an early Roman burial site that was disturbed when rubbish pits were dug in the late Roman period.

“Unfortunately, the bulk of the find was destroyed by previous 19th and 20th century development of the site.

“The remains are with the archaeologists while a report is prepared for publication in the Surrey Archaeological Collections and will be given to the Ewell Museum or Surrey History Centre.”

A detailed report into the finds will be drawn up in the next few months.

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