Lower Basildon Roman Villa
While constructing the Great Western Railway line at Lower Basildon in 1839, workmen found what appears to have been the remains of a relatively modest, though luxuriously fitted out, Roman Villa of several rooms. It was probably occupied by a middle class family farming the surrounding countryside. The major finds were two superb mosaic floors which the navies almost immediately proceeded to smash to pieces. One was apparently much damaged in antiquity, the second complete mosaic was fortunately drawn in some detail just prior to its destruction by the antiquarian, Charles Roach-Smith. Berkshire is distinctly lacking in Roman mosaics, so it is particularly gratifying to know that this interlocking squares pattern was laid by the best mosaicists in the country: the so-called Central Southern Group of artists, probably working out of Winchester or Chichester in the 4th century. Recent excavations indicate that there is little left today, the main villa building being almost entirely covered by the railway. Some substantial outbuildings have survived, possibly barns, slaughter houses or kitchens; as well as an impressive array of ditched fields and paddocks. The main ditch around the side was some three metres deep. The site was occupied from the 1st to the 4th centuries and perhaps rebuilt twice. It has produced numerous finds: much building material (roof and floor tiles, concrete flooring, etc), bones, oyster shells, coins, pots, mortaria, wine jars, Oxford and Samian finewares and even a barrel padlock. It was apparently built next to an ancient Roman crossing point over the Thames, remembered as ‘Bestle-ford,’ the earliest known name for the village.
Based on the work
of Charles Roach Smith (1839) & Channel Four's Time Team (2001)
|© Nash Ford Publishing 2004. All Rights Reserved.|