Theatres were unheard of in Britain before the arrival of the Romans. This illustration depicts a theatre near St Albans that would have been used around the same time as the Faversham cockpit theatre.
Roman remains reveal first British example of ancient cockpit-style theatre
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Bronze Age Roman theatre – dating back 2,000 years.
Dr Paul Wilkinson, founder of the Kent Archaeological Field School, believes it is the first of its kind to be found in Britain.
The theatre with a nearly circular cockpit-style orchestra, which would have seated 12,000 people. It was found in Faversham, Kent – just behind Dr Wilkinson’s back garden where his field school is based.
Theatres were unheard of in Britain before the arrival of the Romans. This illustration depicts a theatre near St Albans that would have been used around the same time as the Faversham cockpit theatre
The site shows activity dating back to the Bronze Age, but it is the Roman theatre – which would have been used for religious occasions – that has really excited history buffs.
Dr Wilkinson is fighting to preserve the unique find for future generations and has applied for it to become an ancient monument site.
He said: ‘It really is an amazing find, the first one in Britain, and it is just beyond my garden. This is a unique and wonderful discovery, not only for Faversham but for all of Britain.
‘The theatre could have held 12,000 people and we are going to request for it to become an ancient monument site because it is so important and we can preserve it for future generations.
‘It would have been a religious sanctuary for the Romans. They would have held religious festivals there. It is called a cockpit theatre.
‘There are 150 of them in northern Europe, but none in Britain until now. We were not expecting it.’
Dr Wilkinson (right) has led archaeological digs in Kent for more than a decade. One of his recent surveys (left) unearthed the remains of a cockpit theatre
Investigations began on the land back in 2007, but the results have only just been released. A cockpit theatre had a large nearly circular orchestra with a narrow stage set much further back than in traditional theatres.
Dr Wilkinson believes the site is the only known example in Britain of a Roman rural religious sanctuary, with a theatre actually built into the hillside. Two temple enclosures were found near by as well as a sacred spring.
Durolevum was the name the Romans gave to Faversham, and means ‘the stronghold by the clear stream.’
English Heritage spokesman Debbie Hickman said: ‘If the full analysis of the results does confirm that the site on the outskirts of Faversham is a Roman rural theatre, it would be a most remarkable find.’
Dr Wilkinson has led archaeological digs in Kent for more than a decade. In September he led a team that found an ancient ceremonial site the size of Stonehenge on the North Downs.
The purpose of the neolithic ‘henge’ near Hollingbourne is shrouded in mystery, however a large amount of burnt bone and pottery discovered suggested it was used for some sort of ritual.
The researchers also found antles and cattle shoulder blades, which they think were used as pick axes and shovels by workers who first dug out the henge.
The 50metre-wide henge was discovered after a circular mark was spotted in satellite images of the area.