AN IMPERIAL Roman villa complex could sit underneath the town of Berkeley, archaeologists believe.

In the final hours of their four-week dig students from the University of Bristol found several Roman items, igniting theories that a Roman villa could have been underneath their trench in the garden of the Edward Jenner Museum.

Their aim this year was to find evidence of an Anglo-Saxon religious community, dating back to around the 9th to 10th century.

The team, led by TV archaeologists and lecturers at the university Dr Stuart Prior and Prof Mark Horton, did find many items that suggested the site dated back to Saxon times.

However last Friday, hours before they started to re-fill the trench, they found a large quantity of Roman wall plaster. The day before they had found some Roman roof tiles and Roman coins, all around three post-holes in the ground, also believed to date back to Roman times.

"In the closing moments of the dig we found the best evidence yet that a Roman villa lay under Berkeley, probably under the church," said Prof Horton, a presenter on BBC series Coast.

"We are lucky that on this site the soil is clay because it preserves things beautifully so we have had some finds in very good condition."

The Roman villa is likely to date back to around 3rd to 4th century and Berkeley could even be the site of an imperial settlement of Romans from Gloucester.

"This is a really exciting find," said Dr Prior. "We will come back next year to Berkeley because there is definitely more Roman finds waiting to be discovered."

The dig, which is organised every year for students on archaeology and anthropology courses in Bristol, uncovered some major historical finds including a mint condition Anglo-Saxon belt strap end with the face of a dragon and a covered over road leading to St Mary’s Church.

It is now thought, almost certainly, that an Anglo-Saxon minster - a walled religious community - lived in mainly by high status women existed in Berkeley. It is the first to be excavated in the country.