ARCHAEOLOGISTS are hoping to find historic artefacts as a dig begins at Abingdon's Old Gaol in preparation for its redevelopment.

Depending on what is found, the work will determine when the development of homes, shops and restaurants can proceed.

Trial trenches have been dug to establish the nature, extent and character of any surviving archaeological features in the former leisure centre, in Bridge Street.

Oxfordshire County Council records show that medieval and Roman artefacts have been found there.

Nikki Malin, spokesman for the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: "It's really important with historical sites like the Old Gaol that an archaeological examination takes place.

"The work is progressing well and should be able to give us more insight into the Old Gaol and its history."

The work is being overseen by the county council archaeology team, and is being paid for by developers Cranbourne Homes.

Shaun Dominic, of Cranbourne, said: "Work so far has reinforced the findings reported in the 1970s and 1980s. Our team is doing a thorough job to ensure everything is accounted for and in order."

District council chief executive Terry Stock added: "We feel it's important to keep people informed about progress at the site. This is an important first step in the process."

Cranbourne was chosen as the developer by the district council in January.

Plans include new and increased public access to the riverside gardens and an on-site manager.

They also include 24 affordable homes elsewhere in Abingdon, which will be subsidised housing for sale or rent for people who cannot afford to buy or rent on the open market.

A planning application is expected to be submitted to the council in the next few months.