ALL roads lead to Cowley, it seems: archaeologists have uncovered a trove of Roman pottery beneath a former car dealership set to become flats.

Developer Watkin Jones knocked down the old Swan Motor Centre in November 2017 to make way for 144 new student flats in four blocks following the granting of planning permission by Oxford City Council.

With the £15.5 million Between Towns Road development now well under way, the company has released the full archaeological findings from the site – a condition of the council's original planning approval.

READ AGAIN: Cowley car dealership closes after more than four decades

The work was carried out by the archaeology unit of Southampton City Council between November 2017 and January 2018.

A report by Jane Timby from the unit said they found 2,656 sherds of pottery weighing 47kg during the dig, the vast majority dated to the Roman period.

Oxford Mail:

Pottery being uncovered at the Between Towns Road site. Picture via Southampton Archaeology Unit

Colin Mutton, who opened the car dealership in 1973 and ran the business with his son for decades, said: “It’s amazing that I was selling cars there for 40 years and had no clue about all the history buried underneath my feet.”

The 78-year-old, who sold the site to Watkin Jones after deciding the changing nature of car sales meant it was time to close the business, said: “I was able to actually be there when a team of around 12 archaeologists moved in and see them work.

"It was especially rewarding when children from Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School, which is near the site, came to have a look at what had been found.”

ALSO READ: 'A child could be killed' – concerns over lorries at Cowley development

Excavations at adjoining St Luke’s Road had previously shown evidence of pottery production in Cowley but the new finds were later than archaeologists anticipated.

Ms Timby wrote in her report: “The Roman evidence shows that contrary to what was expected the site did not contain evidence of the beginnings of the Oxford Roman pottery industry.

“Instead the site provided evidence of perhaps the last century of the Oxford Roman pottery industry, and demonstrates the range of pots that were produced at the end of the industry, possibly into the early 5th century, including a number of colour-coat bowls, highly decorated with carefully carved stamps.”

Oxford Mail:

Drawings of the Roman pottery recovered at the site. Picture via Southampton Archaeology Unit

She added: “Even at this late date the Cowley kilns were producing fine and specialist wares rather than reverting to utilitarian pottery.”

SEE ALSO: What is happening with Templars Square and the £60m rebuild?

Ms Timby concluded that due to absence of any evidence of structures associated with pottery production it suggested the area was a ‘dumping ground’ for potteries to the south.

Previous investigations had focussed on the area to the south of St Luke’s Road and east of Between Towns Road while the former Swan Motor Centre site is to the north. Pottery was previously found there in 1936 and 1969.

With no finds requiring a halt to building work the scheme is estimated to be complete in August. A design and access statement submitted with the original application argued the 144 flats, reduced from an initially planned 157, would be a 'high quality' mixed-use development in an area 'expected to start under going a fairly significant regeneration'.