The Roman villa at Chedworth is one of the largest in Britain. Discovered in 1864, the villa is now managed by the National Trust who run numerous activities at the site throughout the year.
Victorian gamekeeper Thomas Margetts accidentally discovered the villa hidden beneath a Cotswold field in the mid-19th Century whilst digging for a ferret! Instead of a furry friend he found fragments of pottery and paving stones. Following Margetts discovery the site was excavated by politician and antiquarian James Farrer from 1864 to 1866 at the expense of the landowner, the Earl of Eldon. The Earl also paid for the installation of roofing over the exquisite mosaics that were discovered as well as building an on-site ‘lodge’ to house all of the discovered artefacts.
The villa looks over the River Coln which is typical of Roman building practises which saw villas often situated in fertile lowland river valleys where fresh water is in constant supply. Chedworth also sits adjascent to a natural spring over which a shrine was constructed in honour of the water-nymphs.
Built in three distinct phases, the Villa origioanlly started off a modest set of buildings complete with a simple bath house. The bath house was enlarged and additional rooms built after a fire in the 3rd Century. This is known as phase 2. Later the detached buildings were joined up to create a luxury complex centring around a courtyard. Several additional bathing suites were added during this stage, known as phase 3, by the villa’s wealthy inhabitants. As well as the water shrine there is also a Romano-British temple located close to the villa site where it is believed some of the alters in the museum originated from.
There is an onsite café serving hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, jacket potatoes and ice-cream. Whilst enjoying a sweet treat in the café you can browse their bookshelves and pick up a bargain second hand book, many of which are about the history of the local area. As well as a café there is a Roman shop which sells dressing up clothes and props and an outdoor plant stall selling Romanesque plants and herbs.
As well as free daily tours, the National Trust runs several events throughout the year at Chedworth such as archaeology festivals, Roman re-enactments and crafts events.