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24 September 2014

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You are in: Gloucestershire > History > History Features > The Moles that discovered a Roman Villa

Phil Harding and Steve Thompson

Time Team in Gloucestershire

The Moles that discovered a Roman Villa

Bits of mosaic that were found in mole hills in a Gloucestershire field have led to TV's Time Team unearthing a previously unknown Roman villa...

Time Team in Gloucestershire

Mick Aston, Phil Harding, and John Gater on camera

A family of moles have helped to uncover a Roman Villa at Withington on the outskirts of Cheltenham.

Channel 4's Time Team came to visit Gloucestershire in the Summer of 2005 after a local archaeologist noticed bits of mosaic had turned up in a mole hill. Roger Box recognised the fragments as tesserae and called in Tony Robinson and the gang.

The TV experts then spent three days digging around at the site, and uncovered a previously unknown Roman villa. The programme will be transmitted in a few weeks time - on January 29th 2006.

Director of the Time Team episode featuring Withington, Laurence Vulliamy, told BBC Gloucestershire: "It's extraordinary. We came down and looked at it... and thought this can only mean one thing - inches under the ground there must be something going on... We dug down and within an hour or two we found a mosaic floor.

Time Team

The Roman mosaic is filmed in close-up

"By the end of the day we'd found a number of walls, a collapsed roof, the beginnings of a second mosaic, and what we thought was the remains of a hypercaust - or underfloor heating system."

"In all my experience of Time Team Withington is undoubtedly the best the richest site that we've ever dug on because we found so much so quickly. We found almost as much in the first day as we normally find in three days."

The villa was discovered close to the site of another Roman villa which was unearthed in 1811 by renowned antiquarian Samuel Lysons. Neil Holbrook from Cotswold Archaeology said: "It's unusual for two villas to be found so close together. I went and looked at the sight before we started digging... and there was a slight worry in my mind. 

Victor Ambrus

Victor Ambrus recreates the Roman villa

"I'd heard a rumour that when the sight up the road had been dug in the 19th Century all the stone had been shipped out in the soil heaps and dumped at the bottom. But no, it came up trumps."

The newly discovered villa at Withington along with the Lysons' villa make up a complex which must have been extremely impressive, and possibly bigger than the famous Chedworth Roman villa - just a few miles away.

Laurence Vulliamy said: "This area (The Cotswolds) probably had the highest concentration of Roman villas in the country, and undoubtedly would have been described as the Roman stockbroker belt.

"It was a phenomenally rich area to farm and to live in - it had enormous natural resources. It's still very beautiful countryside but in those days it must have been the golden place to be in Britain."

Click on the link below to listen to Laurence Vulliamy interviewed by BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Matt Peacock.

Also taking part in the discussion are Neil Holbrook from the Cotswold Archaeological Trust and Mark Goodall from Chedworth Roman Villa.

last updated: 07/04/2008 at 11:57
created: 04/01/2006

Have Your Say

Are you interested in Roman Gloucestershire? Why were there so many villas in the Cotswolds? Let us know your thoughts...

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

John Julian
I am extreemly interested in archaeolgy and in canada "time team "is the only show on t.v.that is of this type, I wish there were more

I Live in the cotswolds and I have to do homework on the romans and what they did for gloustershire and this report really helped and was very interestingand fasinating.Thankyou for your help. Lucy, Chipping Campden, 12 years of age.

a facinating area the cotswolds full today of beauty probably started by roman activity .they knew a good spot from scouting all landscapes and although did not totally reign britain held land that today would have taken multimillions of electronic equipement to discover its wealth .they found without. thier intellect was astonishing (was aston areas name because of astonishing).going to help find more lost metalics in haselton nr cheltenham . maybe some items will show more villas.

Mark Anthony
I have discovered a Roman Villa in Witcombe. Anyone know where I should report this? Funnily enough this is my second major discovery. When I was a kid I stumbled on one with a mosaic in Chedworth as well. My teacher was well chuffed I can tell you.

Tony Robinson
How many Romans does it take to change a light bulb?According to the Time Team, after having found a small shard of glass and a splinter of wood. The computer generated reconstruction shows a city of at least two million people with several highly advanced light bulb manufacturing facilities.

paul lysons
im interested in the man that found the original site

yes i love roman history i dunno y coz we got a well borin teacher that is kinda a goth

Dave Sharp
I think romans are cool as they are cool dadio!!! xxxFrom ozzer at CDPS

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