Roman villa of 'enormous importance' discovered under Wiltshire home

PUBLISHED: 12:01 18 April 2016 | UPDATED: 12:01 18 April 2016

Colour sketch of the site

Colour sketch of the site

Archant

Wiltshire resident Luke Irwin, has discovered the remains of a Roman mosaic, one of the largest Roman Villas ever discovered in the UK

Luke found the Roman villa whilst laying electricity cables at his home. It is the most significant discovery of its time in over a decade and excavation of the site part funded by Historic England has found that the mosaic forms part of what may be one of the largest Roman villas ever built in the UK. Recognising that mosaics don’t often turn up alone in remote fields, Irwin quickly called in the Wiltshire Archaeology Service and Historic England (formerly English Heritage).

Upon excavation of the site, archaeologists from Historic England and Salisbury Museum confirmed that the mosaic formed part of a grand villa which was built sometime between 175 AD and 220 AD, and was repeatedly re-modelled right up until the mid - 4th century.

Mosaic discovered on the Whiltshire siteMosaic discovered on the Whiltshire site

The three-storey structures found are similar to those found at Chedworth, meaning there is reason to believe that the villa belonged to a family of extraordinary wealth and importance. Other artifacts discovered include discarded oyster shells, a perfectly preserved Roman well and, movingly, the stone coffin of a Roman child which held geraniums until it was identified.

A Roman villa inspired rug from the Luke Irwin collectionA Roman villa inspired rug from the Luke Irwin collection

Historic England Archaeologist Dr David Roberts says ‘This site has not been touched since its collapse 1400 years ago and, as such, is of enormous importance. Without question, this is a hugely valuable site in terms of research, with incredible potential. The discovery of such an elaborate and extraordinarily well-preserved villa, undamaged by agriculture for over 1500 years, is unparalleled in recent years. Overall, the excellent preservation, large scale and complexity of this site present a unique opportunity to understand Roman and post-Roman Britain.’

The chance of discovering the floor of a Roman villa of this significance is one in a million and the chances of rug designer discovering are likely one in several billion. This once in a life time discovery fired rug designer Luke Irwin’s imagination, and together with long-time collaborator and Co-Creative Director Vikram Kapoor, he has created a collection of rugs inspired by what it all began with, the mosaic.

Mosaic fragments found on the Wiltshire siteMosaic fragments found on the Wiltshire site

Rug designer Luke Irwin says: ‘I was overwhelmed by the realisation that someone has lived on this site for 2,000 years. You look out at an empty field from your front door, and yet 1,500 years ago there was the biggest house, possibly, in all of Britain. The link to the collection is my perpetual desire to be immersed in history. It’s the sense of wonder. It’s how time just drifts on. When you hold a tessara [mosaic tile] in the palm of your hand this history feels tangible it’s like an electric shock.’

A Roman villa inspired rug from the Luke Irwin collectionA Roman villa inspired rug from the Luke Irwin collection

The 18 piece Mosaic Collection launches in May 2016 and is available from the Luke Irwin showroom, 20-22 Pimlico Road, London SW1W 8LJ.

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