IT'S nearly 2,000 years old and for hundreds of years it shielded residents from invading barbarians.

So last November, when archaeologists unearthed the remains of a Roman wall in the heart of Winchester, plans for 14 new homes were put on ice to allow for excavation of the site.

Now it has emerged that the ancient piece of history could be smashed up and used as filler for the foundations of the new houses.

Local historians are outraged at the destruction of the remains, which were once part of the Roman South Gate that protected the city, and from which Southgate Street takes its name.

Ian Hamer, an amateur historian, said: “When we were toured the site, we were told that the whole wall will probably get destroyed. It will be completely lost.

“There was a collective howl from the archaeology people there. There seems to be general agreement that this will be a bit of an act of vandalism.”

Winchester City Council confirmed a medieval ditch will be preserved, but added that preservation of part of the surviving remains of the city wall within the site was “not possible”.

In 1971 an excavation on the other side of the road revealed the remains of a Roman bastion.

Professor Martin Biddle, a world-renowned archaeologist who carried out that work, has told the Daily Echo he was unhappy that the destruction of the wall would go ahead without a complete excavation to test for a bastion.

Following Daily Echo enquiries, Prof Biddle said yesterday he understood excavations would now continue.

He said: “The problem is being addressed as a matter of urgency and I am now happy this is so.

“If there was a bastion, it would be of great historical significance. Huge catapults were placed on them and used to bombard attackers as they approached the city.”

Angus Cook, managing director at developers Bargate, said his archaeological consultants would not be commenting on the question of a bastion, but said a report on the excavation would be made public 'in the near future.'

He said: “It would not be physically possible to preserve the wall. The building opens out on to street level and the remains of the wall are very close to the surface.”

He said students and local history groups had been invited to tour the site.

“If people have any issues with the investigations, they should go to Winchester City Council and see how they reply to that because as far as we're concerned, everything has been done properly.”

Asked whether the wall would be broken up for rubble, he declined to comment.