Ram-raiders help uncover treasures in Dedham

28 October 2018, 10:13 | Updated: 28 October 2018, 10:17

East Of England Co-Op

Ram-raiders who fled from a shop in Essex empty-handed unwittingly helped to uncover archaeological treasures from the Tudor and medieval periods.

Major structural damage was caused to the East of England Co-op store in Dedham when it was rammed by a Toyota Hilux in December 2017.

The raiders abandoned the pick-up and fled empty-handed in a second vehicle, Essex Police said at the time.

Damage was caused to a section of shop front dating from the 1950s, but the timber-framed building was originally built in 1520 as a merchants' house.

The incident prompted the Co-op to commission archaeologists to examine the building and carry out a dig beneath the shop floor.

They found a medieval hearth which pre-dated the surviving buildings and 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.

Other archaeological finds include a two-handled tripod cauldron dating from the late 16th to early 18th century.

It was buried near one of the original entrances and may have been intended to prevent evil influences entering the house, Colchester Archaeological Trust said.

The building's timber joisting and beams were the finest the historic architect had ever seen, the trust added.

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

The shop was moved into a barn after the raid but will re-open at its High Street site on Tuesday.

Its security has been boosted, with concealed steel now embedded into the shop front.