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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 209284

Hob Uid: 209284
Location :
Dorset
East Dorset
Witchampton
Grid Ref : ST9632005870
Summary : Site of a Roman villa discovered in 1831 with mosaics and a hypocaust.
More information : A Roman Villa at Hemsworth was excavated by G.H. Engleheart in 1905. (1)

ROMAN VILLA (96320587), discovered in 1831. The site, now heavily ploughed, is on the gentle N. slope of a low Chalk spur in the angle between two Roman Roads which converge on Badbury Rings. The records of excavations carried out in 1905 are difficult to interpret, but they suggest that a main block, perhaps 250 ft. long and orientated E.N.E.-W.S.W., had wings projecting S.E. at each end; apparently it was connected by a N.-S. passage to another wing, 60 ft. to S.E. At the N.E. end, four mosaic pavements and a hypocaust indicated five rectangular rooms. The largest mosaic, 13 ft. square, contained a circular panel (Plate 81) with the bust of a sea or river god surrounded by concentric decorative borders. To the W. of this pavement was a plunge bath, nearly 6 ft. square and 2 1/2 ft. deep, with a pelta pattern in black and white on its mosaic floor. About 100 ft. S.W. of these rooms was a group of three pavements. One, 20 ft. long and rectangular, apparently had a pattern including three large roundels. The other two were some 15 ft. square, that on the N. having a chequer design formed by alternate pieces of grey limestone and Kimmeridge shale, that on the S. being made of 'bluish pebbles'.
To the S.W. of these pavements and aligned obliquely in relation to the other rooms, were a large apsidal pavement, 16 ft. deep by 12 ft. wide, and a hexagonal floor some 9 ft. across. The apsidal pavement has a central panel with the figure in white of Venus rising naked from waves, backed by a large shell of red, grey and white, within concentric decorative borders. A wide outer border depicts five dolphins, with smaller, fish and scallop shells. The colours are black, buff, grey, purple, pale blue, white and yellow. A burnt patch obliterates the upper part of the Venus.
Another group of rooms exposed some 40 ft. to the S.W. included a large hypocaust with fallen debris of a mosaic including many yellow tesserae, and wall plaster, one piece of which preserved part of a painted column and capital. Among other mosaic fragments in this group was a border composed of pairs of large leaf-shaped ovals. Another 'pebble' pavement lay nearby.
The walls of the building were of flint and the roofs were of lozenge-shaped stone slabs. It was remarked that the floors appeared fresh and that the quarter-round plaster mouldings at the junction of walls and floors were still sharp. There were traces indicating boarded floors. Many signs of burning suggested destruction by fire. The few finds included coins of Tetricus I, Constantine I and Gratian. A rubbish pit near the Venus pavement contained pottery and tiles. Inhumation burials were reported from an adjoining field. The roundel with the sea god, the floor of the bath, tesserae, wall plaster and small finds are in D.C.M.; the Venus pavement is in the British Museum. (2)

DO 37 Listed as The site of a Roman villa. (3)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details : 1909
Page(s) : 01-Dec
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 30
Source Number : 2
Source : An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume four : north Dorset
Source details : -22
Page(s) : 110
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : A gazetteer of Roman villas in Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 55-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.1

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Villa, Mosaic, Hypocaust
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DO 684
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Dorset)
External Cross Reference Number : 3 027 022
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : ST 90 NE 16
External Cross Reference Notes :

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