Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire

With the important Roman towns of Gloucester and Cirencester nearby, this area was rich in Roman occupation and it would have been quite usual to find villas such as Chedworth within close proximity. Chedworth Roman Villa was first discovered in 1864 by a local gamekeeper, whilst digging for his lost ferret, and was subsequently excavated over a two year period by Mr James Farrer. At that time the estate was owned by the Earl of Eldon, and it was he who financed the excavation works, the roofing of the mosaics, and the building of a museum. In 1924 the Chedworth Roman Villa site was acquired by the National Trust.

Originally consisting of three separate ranges (south, west and north), the Villa appears to have been reasonably well established by AD150. All three ranges have been excavated, with the exception of the eastern half of the southern range. The buildings dating from this period seem to have been plain and functional, with no evidence of the grandeur apparent in the later additions, and the main accommodation was concentrated in the west range. One noticeable difference between Chedworth Roman Villa at this time, and other villas of similar age, is its quite considerable size. Later in the second century a fire caused serious damage to the south and west ranges, but repairs appear to have been carried out immediately. At the same time as rebuilding was in progress, other improvements were made at Chedworth Roman Villa including the addition of several rooms in the north range, and an extension to the bath complex at its western end.

During the fourth century major changes were made to the building, resulting in the villa's far more grand appearance. In the early part of the century the 'Garden Court' was created by extending the south and west ranges with additional rooms, effectively joining them at right angles. Around the inner perimeter of the three existing ranges open verandahs were added, and a fourth was constructed midway along the south and north ranges to complete the enclosed quadrangle. These verandahs may also have facilitated the need for an upper 'clerestory', involving the insertion of a series of large windows immediately above the verandah's pitched roof to allow additional light into the existing rooms. Also at this time the existing bath house in the northern range was partly converted to a sauna, or dry heat baths, and a new 'Turkish' (or damp heat) bath was constructed at the northern end of the west range. Building work eventually came to an end late in the fourth century after a large dining suite had been added at the eastern end of the north wing. With the completion of these works, Chedworth Roman Villa had been transformed into a luxurious house with a substantial bath complex at the north-west corner of the site.

Many artefacts recovered from Chedworth Roman Villa are displayed in the museum built by the Earl of Eldon, which is located along the perimeter of the eastern verandah. But Chedworth's real delight for the modern visitor are the beautiful mosaics, the best of which survives in the dining-room near the intersection of the west and south ranges. Some 11 rooms are known to have contained mosaics of varying quality and style, although little has been established about six of these. The other five remain in situ, now covered by protective shelters.


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