ROMAN pottery and bone fragments have been found buried beneath a former Cowley petrol station as work gets underway to transform the land into new flats.

An archaeological dig is currently taking place on the former Murco garage site at Between Towns Road as part of the conditions for a planning application for the land, which was approved in May.

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Local history enthusiasts were invited to see the work being done and met with representatives from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) which has been commissioned to do a site survey by WSP.

Archaeologists guided the group, which was made up of members of the Cowley History Society and Littlemore History Society, around several test pits to reveal footings gullies, medieval ditches and former post holes.

As well as Roman pottery finds, bone fragments and other evidence of people having lived on the site thousands of years ago were also evident.

Oxford Mail:

WSP's written scheme of investigation said the site was within an area of Oxford known as a centre of Roman ceramic production and the chances of finding items from that period, therefore, was 'moderate'.

It explained: "In the 1930s, remains of Roman pottery kilns, puddling holes, dumps and pits were recorded 50m southeast of the site at the junction of Between Towns Road and St Luke's Road.

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"Subsequent archaeological investigations at that site, most recently in 2015, have uncovered further kilns, flues, pits, and a dump of pottery wasters comprising several assemblages with potter's stamps."

The investigation will see 10 trenches created to give a representative sample of the site before building work for three houses and 35 flats gets underway.

The group's visit, which was organised by city councillor David Henwood, had also wanted to see evidence of the Gibbons bakery which had been based at the site before it was demolished to make way for the former Murco garage in the 1970s.

Oxford Mail:

Maggie Lewis, from Cowley History Group who has a family connection to the bakery, said: “I'm very proud to be able to say I am from Cowley.”

Roseanne Butler, a local history author who was also part of the visit, added: “Cowley has such a diverse and fascinating history, we are fortunate.

“It is really important to understand how Cowley and its people have evolved, some changes are welcome, some tolerated and also some have to be challenged.”

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The application for the land, which is owned by Oxford City Council has proved controversial due to it being a 'car-free' scheme, with just six parking spaces for the whole development.

The council, which approved the plan twice after it was called in by councillors, has insisted cars will not be necessary in an area close to the Templars Square shopping centre, the Templars Retail Park and major bus routes. Residents, particularly those on nearby St Omer Road, opposed the plan, however, citing fears vehicles would‘flood’ the street.