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Roman road found underneath shop basement in Rochester High Street

They don’t build roads like this any more. At about 2,000 years old, a remarkably pristine section of Roman road with not a pothole or loose paving in sight has been discovered in the centre of Rochester.

The ancient Roman road of Watling Street, which once took centurions and their legions from Dover to London, survives pretty much in name only – until now.

Renovation work to create a retail unit with accommodation both at No 48, opposite the Corn Exchange High Street entrance, has enabled the section to be revealed – and preserved – in all its glory.

Mark Lucas with son Zachary, 19
Mark Lucas with son Zachary, 19

Award-winning conservationist and developer Mark Lucas and his son Zac were tipped off about the historic find at the bottom of the five-storey Grade II listed building by the previous owner.

Since buying the property, which probably dates back to medieval times they have spent the past nine months gutting the former shop which has been empty for years.

Mark, who owns the George Vaults in the High Street, said: “ We started to clear away layers of debris, grime, dirt and grease until we got to the stonework in a corner of the cellar.

The Roman pavement was found in a basement
The Roman pavement was found in a basement

"And then to our amazement there was more stretching to the other side of the room.

“To think the Romans came here in 43 AD and it is still in pristine condition. We did not need to repoint any of the brickwork. Just a bit of the brick had chipped away and we were able to fill it with very light chalk and lime.”

The Archaeological Society has confirmed the artefact dated back to Roman times but has so far been unable to pinpoint it down to a year.

The section, measuring 4 metres by 2 metres, was covered in cloth before a reinforced glass frame was placed on top with lighting to highlight the intricacy of the craftsmanship.

The pavement was found in the basement of this High Street property
The pavement was found in the basement of this High Street property

Mark’s restoration projects include Eastcourt Manor, Eastcourt Road, Twydall, a water mill in Ulcombe, near Maidstone as well as his previous family home Cloudesley House and his pub in the High Street .

Mark, who lives in a Grade II listed farmhouse in Cobham, said: “This is probably one of my most challenging projects and certainly one of the most enjoyable.

“I have just sold it, but looking around at the work that has gone into it, I sometimes wish I had kept hold of it.”

His son Zac, 19, is following in his father’s footsteps in property development and restoration.

He said: “It’ the first project I have done with my dad and it’s definitely something to be proud of. Now I can’t wait to move on to the next one.”

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