One of the best preserved Roman villas in Britain has been discovered in Brixton Deverill, a small village in Wiltshire, England.
The discovery was made by Luke Irwin, who wanted to create a space for his children to play table tennis. After digging in the garden, workers hit a mosaic of orange, grey and cream ceramic tiles. Archaeologists have now confirmed that this is the floor of a three-storey villa built between AD 175 and 220 and they believe it is one of the largest structures ever built in Roman Britain.
Archaeologists from the Wiltshire Archaeology Service, the Historic England organisation and members of the Salisbury Museum excavated eight trenches to discover the Roman villa foundations. Their discovery suggests that the building was at least 50 square metres in size and would have had between 20 to 25 rooms on the ground floor alone.
The archaeologists believe it was likely this villa was built by a wealthy Roman as the location is between London and Cirencester, which in Roman times was an important town. It’s also just 20 miles from the Roman spa town of Aquae Sulis, which is now known as Bath. The new find has been compared to the size of the villa found at Chedworth in 1864 which up until now has been the most important Roman site in Britain.
As well as the preserved mosaic, archaeologists also unearthed a well-kept bathhouse as well as some pottery and coins. The stone used to build the villa was quarried from 13 different British quarries. They also discovered a stone child’s coffin from Roman times, which was being used to grow plants.
The main reason for the well-preserved mosaic according to archaeologists is that the current house was built on top of the former Roman villa on Purbeck marble. The villa also, unusually, outlasted the collapse of the Roman Empire as evidenced by the fact that timber was found on the location dating from the fifth century.
It’s survival, along with the size of the villa, make the discovery all the more intriguing as it has the potential to open a window on a previously little known period in British history. In a statement, archaeologist David Roberts from Historic England said of the discovery: “The discovery of such an elaborate and extraordinarily well-preserved villa, undamaged by agriculture for over 1,500 years, is unparalleled in recent years and it gives us a perfect opportunity to understand Roman and post-Roman Britain.”
Sadly, although the pottery and coins were removed and placed in Salisbury Museum, the villa and mosaic have been reburied as there is currently not enough money to excavate the areas. Here at HistoryLearning we hope funding is found and the villa is fully excavated and its history unlocked.