Extensive Roman Remains Found at Syon Park

11,000 Roman artefacts and landscape discovered in new hotel’s excavations

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An entire Roman landscape has been discovered by the Museum of London Archaeology a few feet below the surface at Grade I-listed Syon Park.

The revelations come following excavations undertaken in August 2008 by the museum in advance of the construction for the new luxury hotel, London Syon Park, set to open in early 2011.

The Roman remains include a Roman road, settlement and Roman burials and have laid remarkably undisturbed only half a metre below the ground surface for almost two thousand years and are of local and national significance . With some of the artefacts due to be displayed in the new hotel, the discovery sheds light on the workings of Roman Britain and on Roman activity in and around Syon Park, from the 1st century AD onwards.

Jo Lyon, Senior Archaeologist at Museum of London Archaeology said, “We were extremely fortunate to discover such a comprehensive repertoire of Roman finds and features so close to the surface. They tell us a great deal about how the people of this village lived, worked and died.

“The archaeology at Syon Park has given us a valuable, rare insight into the daily life of an agricultural village on the outskirts of Londinium (London) that would have supplied the Roman city and provided shelter for travellers passing through. It helps us build a picture of the Roman landscape and shows how the busy metropolis of Londinium connected with the rest of Roman Britain.”

The site revealed a section of one of Roman Britain’s most important roads, linking Londinium with the Roman town of Silchester, a rural settlement, an ancient tributary of the Thames, Roman human skeletons and some very unusual burials. Thousands of Roman artefacts were recovered from the site, including two shale armlets, fragments of a lava quernstone as well as an exceptional Late Bronze Age (1000–700 BC) gold bracelet from an earlier age.

Human skeletons found, could have been the remains of former occupants of the settlement, although the placing of the skeletons in ditches is particularly curious and more research is currently being undertaken by Museum of London Archaeology to discover more about these people and Roman West London.

The Duke of Northumberland, whose family has held residence at Syon Park for over 400 years, said, “Syon Park has a rich and remarkable history. The Roman findings are an incredible addition to this legacy and emphasise Syon Park’s place as a prominent landmark in ancient British history. We’re delighted that the construction for the new Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts hotel has fortuitously revealed these important artefacts which will undoubtedly generate much interest from hotel guests and visitors to the park in many years to come.”

The dig revealed that the British landscape changed considerably under Roman influence with towns being established, interconnected by roads. These roads were markers of the ‘Romanisation’ of Britain. Londinium was founded c AD 48 on an uninhabited site. Its strategic position on the river Thames meant that it rapidly became the most important and largest commercial town in the province.

Once a Roman road was built it started to attract settlement along it, like that in West London. The Syon Park and surrounding area was an attractive place to settle as it lay between the road and the Thames. The land was easy to cultivate and the presence of the road would have offered an additional source of income to the community from travellers seeking refreshment and lodging.

November 18, 2010