The remains of three near-complete Roman buildings dating back more than 1,000 years have been found under a city centre park.
The discover of the three properties, thought to be two large masonry houses and an unusually-shaped third building in Chichester, West Sussex, have been hailed as being of national historic importance.
The discovery was made after ground-penetrating radar appeared to show the properties under Priory Park in the centre Chichester.
Chichester District Council archaeologist James Kenny and the local archaeology society carried out a small dig and confirmed the findings.
“What’s remarkable about the discovery is that it has survived over 1,000 years in a currently occupied city,” said Mr Kenny. “The only reason they have survived is because they are under a park that has never been built on.”
Experts believe the houses – worth millions of pounds in today’s property market – were originally located on a street, which has not survived as a reservoir was built in the park during the Second World War.
Mr Kenny said: “The location marks what may have been one of the more affluent parts of the Roman town, with these houses being the equivalent to a property worth millions of pounds in today’s society.
“The two houses have walls surrounding complete rooms, which are set around a courtyard or atrium. There is also a deep masonry building with a rounded end. We are intrigued to find out what this building is.”
The scans also revealed another Roman street running further east under Priory Park, but this will not be uncovered, Mr Kenny added, saying they would focus their attention on the area in the park.
The district council is now looking to seek funding to carry out a more detailed dig, and a bid is expected to go to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
It is hoped site tours will eventually be run to provide the public with more information as the dig progresses. But there are no plans to keep the remains on permanent display.
Mr Kenny added: “When the work has been completed it is more likely that we will return the ground to its current state.
“Instead, the likelihood is that we will create 3D imaging and information that will provide people with all of the information that they need in the long term.”