NANTWICH could be sitting on one of the most important Roman settlements in the country.
Pottery and other items found during excavations to build an electricity substation at Snow Hill date back to the second century AD.
Added to discoveries made at Kingsley Fields 18 months ago, they have excited historians who now believe there was a Roman military settlement in the area for more than 200 years.
There could even be the remains of a fort hidden beneath the town's picturesque black and white buildings.
The latest discoveries, shown by freelance archæolo-gist Malcolm Reid, include a piece of pottery bearing the name of the first known person in the town.
Lettering carved on the remains of a wine drinking vessel - upside down and backwards, known as graffitos - spell out PRIMI.
Mr Reid said: 'Most of the pottery found was made in France and brought here by the Romans. The name Primi would have been inscribed by the owner so he - more likely than she - is the first person we know of who lived at some stage in Nantwich.'
He added: 'The Samian pottery was made in France and might be termed the Wedgwood of the day.
'It would be used by fairly well-off people, and this and other discoveries made at Kingsley Fields, which included the remains of large wooden buildings, lead me to believe there was a strong military presence here for quite a long time.
'It would not surprise me at all if somewhere, possibly between Kingsley Fields and Snow Hill, there are the remains of a fort.'
Among other items found was a delicate hairpin made from animal bone, again extremely rare.
Mr Reid said: 'All these are extremely significant discoveries, not just for Cheshire but on a national scale.'
Mr Reid, who was formerly employed by English Heritage, is compiling a report on the finds for the Cheshire Archæological Society.
And although the items officially belong to Cheshire Museum Services, they will soon be on display in Nantwich museum.
Mr Reid, of Shavington, said: 'I believe examples of the discoveries should be on permanent display in the town.
'Nantwich is steeped in history and these finds would be an enormous tourist attraction.'
Mr Reid praised the QuFab Construction company from Merseyside, and foreman Dean Mooney,.
He explained: 'Everything could easily have been bulldozed into obscurity.'