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Fishbourne Roman Palace

Hob Uid: 245943
Location :
West Sussex
Chichester
Fishbourne
Grid Ref : SU8394004790
Summary : Fishbourne Roman Palace was excavated at various points during the mid to late 20th century, with the last phase of excavation between 1995 and 2002. It stands on the site of an invasion era military encampment or base, possibly service the harbour and activities at nearby Chichester. Shortly after this two timber buildings were erected which were soon replaced by masonry structures with decorative paintwork and a veranda. Development was rapid, and the masonry structure incorporated a bath housen and hypocaust as well as areas of craft such as metalworking. Notable finds from these periods include a legionary's helmet and large quantities of coins.By 75-80AD work was begun on the huge palace which was constructed of ashlar, greensand, limestone, flints and concrete. The palace had four wings and included extensive private apartments, state rooms, audience rooms, stores, courtyards, formal gardens and baths. It covered an area of approximately 150 square metres and was relatively long-lived, seeing remodelling throughout the second and third centuries. Mosaics within the palace are impressive with original work in popular black and white geometric patterns and later mosaics laid over the top in colour. One of the most impressive and popular is of Cupid on a dolphin, and is remarkably well preserved.The palace has undergone massive conservation and partial reconstruction, and the north wing is covered by a large modern structure which is open to visitors as a museum. The formal gardens to the front have also be reconstructed from their excavated layout.
More information : (SU 83940479) Roman Villa (R) (rems of) (1)

Fishbourne Roman Palace c.43-300 AD. (2-8)

Roman Palace, Fishbourne, excavated 1961-7, by the Chichester Civic Society under Prof B Cunliffe. The foundation remains of the N wing are now housed within a building. Concrete strips outline the buried foundations of the E wing. It is intended to fully excavate in due course the E and W wings of the palace, where not overlaid by modern development. The site is the property of the Sussex Arch Soc and is open to the public.
For full description, see guide book. (9)

WS 25 Listed as a Roman villa or palace. (10)

Further excavations took place in the 1980s and from 1995 and 2002. The palace is one of the largest outside of Italy and although its higher levels have suffered from Saxon and early Medieval ploughing, large tracts of it remain undisturbed and unexcavated.

Fishbourne Roman Palace stands on the site of what was thought to have originally been a military base or camp. Timber buildings were found during excavations which represent granaries popular within Roman military bases and a impressive legionary's helmet was also found. Other buildings included stores and Claudian coins were also found. It appears that the military occupation occurred shortly after the Romans arrived in Britain and it is possible that the settlement was placed around the harbour at Fishbourne as an outlier to activities at nearby Chichester.

After around 50AD the military buildings were replaced with two timber constructions, one being a large domestic building with a veranda and remains of paintwork. This phase of settlement developed rapidly and it is thought that the buildings may be part of a group although this would require further excavation to corroborate. By the early 60s the timber buidlings were replaced by Roman style masonry structures. The timber buildings appear to have remained as shells until the new buildings were complete so this may be representative of continued use by the same people. This masonry structure is widely thought to have been a 'proto-palace'. It was a large complex comprising gardens, colonnades, mosaics and a large set of baths and hypocaust. There is evidence of various crafts such a metalworking taking place in the vicinity as well as of a farmyard. Another theory suggests that the buildings were constructe as public baths to serve people working in commercial industries at the harbour.

Around 75-80AD the complex was taken over for the construction of a huge palace. A freestanding ashlar superstructure was built on levelled ground which used the remains of the masonry 'proto-palace' as levelling material. Other building materials included greenstone, Mixon limestone, flints and concrete. The palace covered an area of approximately 150 square metres and comprised extensive and elaborate mosaic work, baths, hypocaust, courtyards, formal gardens, ceremonial rooms, state rooms and private apartments. The palace was remodelled throughout the second and third centuries, with many of the original black and white mosaics replaced with coloured work. The black and white mosaics are excellent examples of the geometric design that was popular across Italy in the mid first century AD. Many of the mosaics are now visible within a purpose built cover that has been erected over the north wing and which is open to the public. Much of the formal garden has also been re-planted to its excavated design.

The palace was burned in the late 3rd century and abandoned due to the extent of the fire damage. It is not known whether this was deliberate or accidental, however it is not likely to have been a result of planned abandonment as there was a major phase of remodelling underway at the time of the fire. (12)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1968
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Source Number : 2
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : 1962 1st Interim Report (Barry Cunliffe)
Page(s) : 15
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 42
Source Number : 10
Source : A gazetteer of Roman villas in Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 184
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Plates :
Vol(s) : no.1
Source Number : 10b
Source : Antiquity
Source details : 1965
Page(s) : 177-83
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 39
Source Number : 10c
Source : Excavations at Fishbourne, volume 1 : the site
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 26
Source Number : 10d
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : 1973
Page(s) : 321
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 4
Source Number : 10e
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : 1982
Page(s) : 211
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13
Source Number : 10f
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : 1986
Page(s) : 423-4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 17
Source Number : 10g
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : 1987
Page(s) : 353
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 18
Source Number : 10h
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : 1988
Page(s) : 481
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 19
Source Number : 10i
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : 1989
Page(s) : 320-2
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 20
Source Number : 10k
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : 1990
Page(s) : 360
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 21
Source Number : 3
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : 1963 2nd Interim Report
Page(s) : 1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 43
Source Number : 10l
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : 1991
Page(s) : 290-1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 22
Source Number : 11
Source : SU 80 SW 5 (Fishbourne) (1971)
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 12
Source : Fishbourne : Roman Palace
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 4
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : 1964 3rd Interim Report
Page(s) : 1
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 44
Source Number : 5
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : 1965 4th Interim Report
Page(s) : 1
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 45
Source Number : 6
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : 1966 5th Interim Report
Page(s) : 26
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 46
Source Number : 7
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : 1967 6th Interim Report
Page(s) : 51
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 47
Source Number : 8
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : 1968 7th and Final Interim Report
Page(s) : 32
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 48
Source Number : 9
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ASP 25-MAR-1971
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9a
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Fishbourne: The Roman Palace and its History, 1969 (Prof B Cunliffe)
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Military approx. 43-50AD
Monument End Date : 50
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Military Camp, Granary
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Excavated Feature, Find
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Approx 50AD to early 60s
Monument End Date : 62
Monument Start Date : 50
Monument Type : Timber Framed Building
Evidence : Excavated Feature, Sub Surface Deposit, Find
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Early 60s AD to circa 75AD
Monument End Date : 75
Monument Start Date : 60
Monument Type : Baths, Hypocaust, Villa, Mosaic, Colonnade, Garden
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Excavated Feature
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : 75-80AD, remodelled C2/C3 burned C3
Monument End Date : 300
Monument Start Date : 75
Monument Type : Villa, Palace, Courtyard, Garden, Mosaic, Colonnade, Hypocaust
Evidence : Excavated Feature, Sub Surface Deposit, Find

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type :
Object Type : HELMET, COIN
Object Material :
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Timber Framed Building
Object Type : COIN
Object Material :
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Villa, Palace, Courtyard, Garden, Mosaic, Colonnade, Hypocaust
Object Type : COIN
Object Material :

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : WS 233
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (West Sussex)
External Cross Reference Number : 648
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 396
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 80 SW 5
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 620577
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1961-01-01
End Date : 1969-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 80 SW 5
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1971-03-25
End Date : 1971-03-25
Associated Activities : Primary, FISHBOURNE (KENSINGTON COTTAGE)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1972-01-01
End Date : 1972-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WEST WING, FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1989-01-01
End Date : 1989-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, EAST OF FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1995-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, EAST OF FISHBOURNE PALACE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1995-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NORTH OF THE MANSIO, FISHBOURNE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT THE WOOLPACK, 71 FISHBOURNE ROAD WEST
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31