Roman Gestingthorpe.

The Foxearth and District Local History Society met on 9th February 2010 and began with a tribute by Chairman Alan Fitch to Joyce Potter, Secretary of the Society, who died suddenly last month. Joyce trained as a radiographer and eventually became Superintendent Radiographer at London’s Royal Free Hospital. Upon retirement she moved with her husband to Borley where she was able to follow her passion for bee keeping and she was in demand as an expert speaker on the topic. Joyce was also a talented linguist being fluent in French, Italian and Russian. Joyce was a member of the Society almost from its inception and she will be very much missed for her keen interest in its activities and her friendship.

It was intended to present some historic films at this meeting but projecter problems intervened. As ever, our reliable President, Ashley Cooper, stepped into the breach and we were treated to a fascinating exposition of the Roman finds at Gestingthorpe . In the Cooper family the thirst for knowledge began some 60 years ago when Harold, Ashley’s father discovered, what proved to be, a Roman tile on his farm land. He took it to Colchester museum where the Curator made the identification and encouraged further exploration. Harold’s enthusiasm was really fired when in the 1960s the foundations of a Roman villa were unearthed along with numerous fragments of pottery, tile and metal works. A prize finding was an intact pottery jar, complete with lid, but, alas, empty. Another was an exquisite millefleurs piece – only about 1cm in diameter; a testament to the exceptional eyesight of the craftsman. This was found near a horse’s skull and may have been a decorative ornament on the animal. Evidence of ducted underfloor heating (hypocaust) was found together with many other relics.

As well as instituting a museum at their home the family commissioned a series of water- colour paintings from local artist, Ben Perkins, showing how Gestingthorpe may have looked in Roman times and we were shown these along with photographic slides of the excavations. Gestingthorpe was clearly a hive of industry with all its potters, tile makers, metalsmiths.carvers of antlers and bone, and so on. A truly enjoyable evening from a master in the art of enthusiasm-conveyance!

The Chairman reminded members that the next gathering of the Society would be the AGM on Tuesday 9th March at 8pm in Foxearth Village Hall. He announced that Treasurer Justine Corney was resigning because of other commitments and there would thus be two positions to be filled. At this meeting the President would give a short talk, there would be cheese and wine and members were invited to bring along any historical/antique artefacts for discussion- or perhaps identification!

Ken Nice

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