Chedworth Roman villa above At the south end of the West Range corridor, the team found the remains of a blocked doorway. Intriguingly, the mosaic continued under the wall, suggesting that there had once been a room at this level, in a space now occupied by the triclinium hypocaust. above right Overlooking the 2013 excavation of the North Range baths: looking east you can see the remains of the early apsidal caldarium (at the bottom) and tepidarium (at the top). These were built over in the 4th century, with the columns part of the later baths.
Roman doorway leading from the upper courtyard and into the West Range. There was a different style of mosaic at this entrance point – we joked it was the doormat: just a small section of a ‘pelta’ design remained. The mosaic had been repaired on more than one occasion before it had been eroded away and the floor replaced with packed sand and mortar.
None of the fragments of pottery from this rough floor provided an end-date for its makeshift repair, but it was clearly evidence of the villa’s decline. As for further refining the villa’s chronology, one of our big revelations turns on the fact that two flights of steps, one at either end of the West Range corridor, each overlay the corridor’s mosaics. These steps must therefore post-date the corridor, indicating that the steps were built to enable entry to raised-up rooms: the dining room at one end, and the baths at the other.
These rooms were rebuilt at a higher level in order to accommodate the hypocausts needed to heat the baths and the diners. Furthermore, at the south end, we discovered a blocked door, yet the corridor mosaic was seen to run beneath this blockage and under the dining room wall into where the hypocaust had been constructed. This evidence all strongly indicates that the hypocausts were a later development, and that the corridor had originally served rooms at the same level as itself.
So, by 2012, we had extensively re-examined the West Range, discovered much about its history, and made it accessible to visitors. But without an exploration of the North Range – which we suspected would be much grander than the West Range – we were only half way there. Peter Salway and Simon Esmonde Cleary duly wrote a five-year research design, which was approved by Historic England, and in 2013 we began Phase Two of the project under my direction.
Great discoveries in the North Range
Sir Ian Richmond had already excavated parts of the North Range, and displayed his interpretation of earlier phases by marking buried walls with concrete paths. However, apart from a schematic plan published in the 1965 guidebook, our understanding of what survived was hampered by the lack of photographs, excavation notes, or drawings. Much had also been concreted-over or reburied in the 1960s, but we knew it contained another set of accommodation rooms, reached by a longer and wider corridor, plus an additional set of baths complete with plunge pools, boiler room, and steam-heat baths to complement the dry-heat baths of the West Range.
Our excavation was initially aided by students from Birmingham University. These 2013 digs concentrated on the south side of the North Range bathhouse. Here Richmond had left, outlined in concrete, the ends of an apsidal and a rectangular bath, which were interpreted as parts of the earlier caldarium and tepidarium jutting out from below the late 4th-century baths. We removed the substantial 1960s concrete to reveal the walls below.
current archaeology | www.archaeology.co.uk ugust 2015 |