THE remains of an ancient Roman shopping parade, hidden for centuries under the floorboards of Cirencester's historic Corn Hall have been unearthed this week.

Workers came across the remains of what archaeologists claim is the most significant Roman discovery in the town in the last 50 years while carrying out refurbishment work.

A series of walls were discovered 10 feet below the level of the floorboards in the main room of the 19th Century building along with evidence the site used to house shops over 2,000 years ago.

And alongside the remains evidence of Ermine Street, the famous Roman road which ran from Silchester to Gloucester.

Laurie Coleman of Cotswold Archaeology, project manager for the dig, said it was no surprise to make the discovery in a town with such a rich Roman history.

"There is always the expectation there will be some archaeology but the features that we found were completely new to us.

"The Roman road Ermine Street was just outside the wall and next to a pavement.

"This would have been like a motorway services and a market rolled into one. It would have been quite a grand street to walk up.

Archaeologists excavating the site this week found the remains of a bakery oven with scorch marks, bones from cows, pigs and sheep, a dozen Roman coins, pottery fragments and surprisingly a small, intact, glass, perfume bottle.

"It's pretty rare if you think about the environment," Mr Coleman added. "The fact it survived all these years is quite remarkable really for a relatively large fragment.

However it was not just Roman remains discovered at the site.

A chunk of Medieval romanesque dragon stonework dating from 1140 and believed to have originally been part of Cirencester's Abbey was found.

The renovation work is being carried out by Wildmoor Properties who are redeveloping the Corn Hall and restoring a link to the adjacent King's Head Hotel, which the company also owns.

The work was expected to be finished by next spring but will be delayed by the excavation.

The objects uncovered in the dig will be split between Wildmoor Properties and the Corinium Museum.