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Woolstone Villa
Uffington, Berkshire

Figure 1Details of this Roman are rather few and far between, despite two large scale excavations having taken place here. The first, undertaken upon the villa's discovery in 1884,  is particularly badly recorded. It apparently centred upon three patterned mosaic floors - a rare occurrence in Berkshire. The first, depicting "a series of compartments divided by a coil pattern" (fig.1), was certainly that rediscovered during excavations in 1955. The second - a geometric mesh of octagons, diamonds and rectangles "with conventional rose ornament" (fig. 2) - appears to have been that which was supposedly lifted and removed to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (from where it has since disappeared). The third is often confused with the other two since it is known only from a description. It was made of larger tesserae forming a "well-known key pattern" - presumably a swastika meander pavement like that on display in the corridor of the villa at Bignor in Sussex. It was found some thirty yards away from the main building.

Figure 2The twentieth century excavation has considerably expanded our knowledge of the Woolstone Villa, though only small portions were actually uncovered. It seems to have been of the standard winged corridor type, but with corridors on both sides of the main structure, as well as within the western wing. These were paved with either plain red or plain white tesserae. The first mentioned mosaic was housed in the large western room between the two corridors. It was 14ft wide and contained at least one design of concentric squares with geometric patterns in white, yellow, orange and red. The room had no hypocaust (underfloor heating) but two burnt patches on the floor indicate it was heated by standing braziers. There were probably other associated buildings surrounding the main house and its cobbled courtyard on the southern frontage. The pottery and coins recovered appear to show that the complex was occupied over a long period between the 2nd and 4th centuries.

Figure 3During the 1884 excavation, at least six skeletons (fig. 3) were excavated, including one at the western end of the building, two to the east and a child cist grave associated with the detached 'key' mosaic. These have been interpreted by some as the Romano-British occupants, mostly slaughtered in some atrocity at the end of the villa's life; by others, as later Saxon burials. The latter seems most likely and, as at Barton Court Farm (Abingdon), there may have been scant remains of early Saxon structures in the immediate area which were missed by the early antiquaries.

Based on the work of R. Walker (1884) & A. Hamilton (1955)

 
 

    Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.