The Discovery. What was Found?
We could all see the beautiful colours and patterns on the floor but needed help understanding what was there.
The walls were quite thick and the building could have had two storeys, its entrance probably approached from the Fosse Way to the north. The foundations of two rooms were clearly visible, significant parts of three more and evidence of three others.
The largest room, and the one in which the major mosaic pavement was found was in room 1. It is thought that this was an extension built with rooms 2, 3 and 4 (also with a mosaic) in about A.D. 360. On the north side corridor 5 runs from the east, three rooms 8, 7 and 6, are south of the corridor. Room 1 extended beyond the northern wall and to the south. To the west from room 1 lay room 4 with 2 and 3 to the south. The largest room 1, 12.20m north to south, was entered from the slightly lower north corridor and separated from it by a step; giving an added sense of grandeur. It lead firstly into a smaller ante chamber 4.5m x 4.5m, and ultimately into the larger southerly opulent space 7m x 7m of this bi-partite room. The east side of room 1 had a recessed area floored with larger tesserae, where the owner may have sat or reclined to greet guests, or perhaps where furniture, such as a display cabinet stood. This very imposing room was 12 metres in length (approx. 39ft.), with the elaborate mosaic, and probably , from the fragments found, painted plaster walls. It is thought that the room was a dining room or triclinium 8. This may have looked towards Hinton St George.
The room’s undecorated edge of larger plain tesserae would have allowed the placing of furniture and shelves against the walls whilst leaving the decorated areas clearly on view.
There were some signs that there was a heating chamber to the west of this room, so it may have been centrally heated. The room appears to be a passage with a staircase of which the first step survived.
The excavated remains of the buildings are thought to be part of a much larger building. A geophysical survey showed that it did not extend to the North or the West. Further remains probably lie beneath the standing buildings to the east and south.. The Halstock Villa about 30 km away in Dorset covered an area well in excess of 1000 square metres. It had ranges of buildings and a bath house grouped around a courtyard had similarities not least its mosaics. The more recent discovery of the Dinnington Villa evcavated by Time Team (http://www.channel4.co.uk/timeteam) in 2002 Broadcast 12 January 2003 on Channel 4 showed another vast building both from the evidence of an aerial photograph taken in 1976 and geophysical survey conducted during Time Teams weekend. These would confirm the likelihood of the Lopen Villa being much larger than is known so far.
Local oolite was the predominant building stone but Ham Hill stone was also found indicating that it would have been used as cut stone around doors and windows. The roof was probably of blue lias stone tiles. Photographs of the stone use and its probable origin is included in the materials page.
Careful records need to be made during every archaeological excavation so that information recorded can be made widely accessible. Dr David S. Neal and Stephen Cosh ( 11 ), internationally recognised experts on Romano-British Mosaics were involved and made careful drawings of the mosaic from which Dr Neal completed a scale painting of the whole pavement.
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