Chedworth Roman Villa
Gloucestershire GL54 3LJ
Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the largest Roman villas in Britain. The Cotswolds region of England was particularly suitable for the type of intensive farming practised by the Romans and many villas were established in the area between the important Roman towns of Corinium Dobunnorum (Cirencester ) and Glevum (Gloucester).
These two towns were joined by a major road, the Fosse Way. Chedworth Villa is located near the ancient Fosse Way but surprisingly it is built in a sheltered, wooded valley overlooking the River Coln. The villa faces east and this unusual orientation is due to the location of a permanent spring.
A reliable source of water was essential in the siting of a villa. Chedworth is obviously the residence of an extremely wealthy man with all the modern conveniences available in the 4th century AD. There is a multi-hole latrine with running water to take away the waste, underfloor heating and two bath houses with a dry-heat sauna and a cold plunge bath.
When the site was discovered in 1864 the archaeologists had no idea of how important it was. They have uncovered a complex of buildings and rooms with beautiful mosaic floors, two different types of hypocaust, a water shrine and a temple. Excavations are still continuing revealing more beautiful mosaic floors.
The villa was on Lord Eldon’s estate and he built a small museum near the site to house the amazing artefacts found. The National Trust has administered the site since 1924 and they do a wonderful job of making the site interesting to children.
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The villa was built in the early 2nd century as a utilitarian structure which was transformed into an elite residence in the early 4th century. The ranges of rooms are arranged around a courtyard, with a luxuriously heated and furnished west wing. In the south wing numerous coins were discovered suggesting it was used for issuing payments to workers.
In the 4th century the courtyard was enclosed with an open colonnade providing an internal garden and extra security. Formal rooms such as a dining room and entertainment area led off the colonnade. It is in these rooms that we find the almost complete mosaic floors.
The floors are comparable to any to be found in Pompeii with figures interweaved with geometric patterns. The entertaining side boasts more elaborate mosaics depicting mythical figures including Winter, gripping tight to his dead hare, and a coquettish Spring running gaily with a bird in her hand.
The Water Shrine
The natural spring that feeds the Villa's water shrine never dries up, and still runs in the 4th-century stone channel. A small stone altar once stood at the far end of the shrine. Offerings were made here to the goddess of the spring - something that still happens today when people throw money into the pool. This modern superstition has its beginnings in the worship of water carried on at Chedworth over 1600 years ago.
About 875 yards (800 metres) south-east of the villa complex the foundations of a Romano-Celtic temple have been uncovered. The temple was built in the 2nd century on a hillside near the River Coln. The temple was square in plan surrounded by a stone portico, the columns surmounted by elaborate capitals. It was a very splendid temple.
Nearby was found an Iron Age votive pit containing human remains and the bones of a red deer showing that the site had been sacred since pre-Roman times. A stone relief of a hunter with a dog and stag was one of the most notable finds from the site.
While wandering around the grounds the visitor may come across some very large snails. Treat them with care for they are descendants of the edible snails the Romans introduced. They would have been fed on milk until they were so fat they couldn't get back into their shells! They were then cooked and eaten as a delicacy - and I bet you thought the French invented escargots!
Another rare resident is the Lesser Horseshoe bat. These tiny creatures, with a body the size of a plum, flit in and out of the specially designed 'bat flap' at the visitor centre during the night to hunt insects. Look out for their droppings in the North Bath House.
Chedworth Villa is a great place to visit, full of history and surprises.
Plan Your Visit
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Go to National Trust website (link below) for details of admission times.
National Trust Members free. The National Trust website (link below) has details of admission costs.
Drop-off point, toilets at reception, audio-visual/wideo
- Building: Ramped entrance with handrail
- Grounds: Partly accessible, slopes, some steps, grass and uneven paths, undulating terrain. Poor access to main features of site, steps to all mosaics and museum
Gift shop, Light snacks and drinks available in shop or tea tent.
Toilets and baby-change facilities.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1242 890 256
- By road
From Cirencester 3 miles (4.8 km)north west of Fossebridge on Cirencester– Northleach road (A429). Approach from A429 via Yanworth or from A436 via Withington (coaches must approach from Fossebridge).
There are two car parks. The Villa car park is 15 yards (14metresfrom the Villa entrance. The overflow car park (April to September) is some 250 yards (228 mertres) from the entrance.
Google Map - Chedworth Roman Villa