Since 2007 archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester’s Cultural Service, in partnership with Chester University, have run an annual training dig in Grosvenor Park Chester for the University’s 2nd year archaeology students. The dig aims to find out more about the area surrounding the Roman amphitheatre, to explore the past of the Park and to give students the important excavation experience they need to gain their degrees.
Beneath the flower beds and grass of the Park lies evidence for how the area looked when the Roman amphitheatre and fortress were in use and when the neighbouring Church of St John the Baptist was an important building in Chester, until it lost its status in the 16th century. Written records and maps show that buildings belonging to the medieval precinct of the church existed on land that is now the Park and that the Cholmondeley family had a large house there that was destroyed in the English Civil War.
The excavations have made some significant discoveries about the Roman, medieval and later remains still surviving underground. In 2007 a Roman road was discovered running westwards across the Park to the east entrance of the amphitheatre. In 2010 work began to uncover more of the road, but instead were found dumps of demolition debris from a 16th or early 17th century building. Beneath this were found traces of a timber-framed building and in 2012 the thick stone walls of a medieval building were uncovered. Though most of the stone had been robbed out it is believed to be part of the north-eastern corner of the precinct of the Church of St John the Baptist; perhaps the hospital and chapel of the Fraternity of St Anne which was acquired by Sir Hugh Cholmondeley in the late 16th century and incorporated into his mansion. One wall of this building was built out into a large ditch which runs north-south across the Park and is perhaps the original boundary of the precinct.
The students have made a blog that relates their experiences and discoveries over the years and includes pictures of the archaeological remains: