The Lost Villa of Bath Skyline

Last week we tested the evidence for a lost Roman villa.

It lies in a hidden, rarely visited field… full of earthworks and stones poking through the grass.

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Starting the excavation: we resurveyed the site with a resistivity meter (bottom left). Cutting the turf  at the lower end  (right) where a corridor? (continuing beyond the two groups of figures on the left side of the tree) gave access to rooms. Terraces at the upper end (left), a series of rooms beside the corridor?

On Monday, with the Volkswagon Golf bulging with tools, the farmer directed me across the farm.. through rough terrain and rutted gateways.

I needed to avoid the more direct route because it was full of new lambs with their mums.

Rob shook his head. ‘Are you sure you want to risk your car out there….We could transfer the equipment into a 4×4’.

‘No, that’s fine’ I said confidently ‘Coaxing inappropriate cars through rough terrain has become a mission. I once got a Vauxhall Nova up Golden Cap… well almost’.

Dodgy gates and a moonscape of deep ruts but the weather has been very dry so nothing untoward occurred during my outbound journey ..and I entered the field which was full of  wonderfully intriguing humps and bumps.

So this was exciting.

Full of archaeological potential.

Stones and walls jutted from terraces and banks. We were on the edge of the Roman city of Bath and this place had a fabulous view out over the Bathampton valley. A spring gurgled in a cutting a few metres downslope. This had every chance of  becoming a previously unrecognised Roman villa.

A home for one of the wealthy people associated with the sacred temple complex surrounding Bath’s magical hot springs.

The NT Bath Skyline team had set up their shepherd’s hut tea room with all the facilities. Luxury. Staff and volunteers were ready to become archaeologists. We all were.

The evidence for the villa seemed good, perhaps too good. Where were the shaped blocks of stone reused in the boundary walls….There were reports of Roman pottery in neighbouring fields but nothing of that date from this particular field. But it was all grass and without mole hills..how would it make itself known.

I introduced the site. Inspired by what we might find. Stories of collapsed walls, partly robbed in medieval times before the site was forgotten. Under this a fallen roof..a sea of tiles (limestone or clay). Then below this mortar and a layer of highly decorated painted plaster (which must be very carefully planned and lifted). Now perhaps we would find small rodent bones (owl pellets dropped when the grand villa had been abandoned, the birds flying in at night through broken windows to roost in the decaying rafters. Below this, of course, a splendid mosaic or mosaics. One must hope that they had not collapsed into the under floor heating system…classical scenes finely worked in cubes of stone and tile.

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Cleaning back the site following the removal of turf defining the corridor? and room? levels.

A trench was marked out to cross what appeared to be a corridor and a large room. The turf was peeled back. The team formed a line and we trowelled and uncovered the stonework.

At this point we expected fragments of baked clay, much mortar and blocks of cut stone, a scatter of oyster shell and animal bone and lots of Roman pottery….

We found a couple of pieces of 19th century glass and a nail.

The stonework was a heap of  unworked chunks of local limestone piled up to form a terrace.

Most disappointing.

The next day, I walked back towards the field edge to check out the fragments of wall we could just see sticking out of the grass. These were proper two sided stone walls.

Dave cut a trench across one section and I hacked into a hawthorn bush and made a space to investigate the footings of another wall heading under the 18th century field boundary wall,

Dave found .22  cartridge cases and  I found fragments of a white ware jar. The 1902 OS map showed a Boer War army camp in the next door field. Perhaps they’d chucked their rubbish over the wall (just like the army tipped their broken crockery over Durrington Walls during WWI).

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The mortared stone walls of the building looking back towards our first trench, the trees marking the corridor that turned into a trackway and in the middle distance the rooms that turned into stone faced field lynchets for small ‘celtic’ prehistoric? fields. Top left of the wall in the foreground is a massive stone that formed the door jamb. This was cut into to fit the timber door frame and a level horizontal area had a hole drilled for the door pivot. The wall continues to the right and the width of one of the rooms of the building is seen as it turns (top right) to run parallel with the wall in the foreground.

All still modern and not a fragment of anything Roman in sight, we strung out tapes from both walls and where they coincided we opened another trench to find the corner of the building.

The big trench was abandoned. Carol had found a bone fragment and a tiny piece of Roman grey ware (“that’s not really enough is it”). We concluded that our earthworks were part of a prehistoric field system, terraces levelled into a slope and faced with limestone rubble with a track defining their lower edge.

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Looking back towards the walls in the last photo. Top left of this trench had a flagstone in place, the key and the pitchfork were found here.

The team on the new trench found a flagstone on a mortar surface, a square section nail, an impressive looking pitchfork and a door key. The surface modern pottery gave way to fragments of tobacco pipe. In Dave and Fay’s trench we found a doorway with a pivot hole in it.

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The pitchfork and square sectioned hand made nail from trench C,

The maps show nothing here in the last 150 years. There are less detailed 18th century maps which also show a blank.

This field was enclosed from the Bishop of Bath’s deer park, in use from the 12th century. It does not seem to have been ploughed since then..but these mortared stone walls and finds are not as old as that… A cottage and/or outhouse in use from late 17th to early 19th century? We need to look at the tithe map and do some more documentary research.

In the end, as we all worked together to backfill the trenches and replace the turf…we agreed that…although we lost our dream of rediscovering a lost Roman villa, it had been good to work there together…

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amongst the sparking leaves and flowers in the cool April sunshine.

 

Badbury and the Devil’s Footprint

This is about the 6th century… Dark Times.

You will need to go to Badbury Rings in Dorset and head to the west side of the outer rampart. Stand where the great Roman road, known as the Ackling Dyke, touches the hillfort and then look north.

From the Badbury Roman cross-roads take the road to Old Sarum (nr Salsibury) where there is another hillfort at another cross-roads. After the Roman conquest, just like at Badbury, a small Roman town grew up nearby. At Badbury it’s Shapwick (Vindocladia) at Old Sarum its Stratford sub Castle (Sorviodunum).

The Roman administration lasted about 400 years then the troops left for the continent and Britain sorted out its own politics. It broke up into factions, petty political infighting and one by one these new Romanised British states caved in to alien cultures from outside the old empire. Our modern counties tell the story of conflict and the place names of our villages and towns in the east are almost exclusively Anglo-Saxon. Bit by bit the Roman centres were abandoned or taken over. In recent years it has been suggested that British and Germanic incomers integrated more amicably than has traditionally been believed…but ancient DNA compared with DNA from modern populations argues for the old fashioned view …that the Brits were ethnically cleansed from the east.

The Saxons took Old Sarum in AD 552, their history book, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, states this. A worrying time for the Romanised peoples of Dorset and Somerset. Time to block the Ackling Dyke. It was too easy an access route for the invaders. The old earthwork marking the Dorset border, Bockerley Dyke, was strengthened and the road was blocked here (General Pitt Rivers discovered this during his excavations in 1890). It was re-opened again soon afterwards…

Early aerial photograph of Badbury Rings (Wessex from the Air 1928). The Ackling Dyke runs top centre to centre left. Notice the way the outer rampart touches the road and covers its south eastern bank and ditch. The Devil's Footprint is top centre cutting the road at right angles. The line has been subsequently been rebuilt but over the years has slumped into the old cutting.

Early aerial photograph of Badbury Rings (Wessex from the Air 1928). The Ackling Dyke runs top centre to centre left. Notice the way the outer rampart touches the road and covers its south eastern bank and ditch. The Devil’s Footprint is top centre cutting the road at right angles. The line has subsequently been rebuilt but over the years has slumped into the old cutting.

Badbury at the cross-roads needed re-fortification. Imagine standing here in the 6th century.. can you feel the vulnerability. What happened?

There are three ramparts around the hillfort. The two inner ones lie close together and look similar…they are Iron Age. What about the outer one? It is further out, slighter, bit humpy…unfinished?. Some say it was built about AD 44 ..on the eve of the Roman Conquest, but stand on the west edge where it runs beside the Ackling Dyke and look at the earthworks.

Which came first? The great Ackling Dyke is 25m across. Late Roman banks and ditches flank the road on either side. Recent LiDAR laser scans, along with aerial photographs, show something new. The east road bank is cut by Badbury’s outer ditch. Excavation at Shapwick has shown that the road is late 4th century…so Badbury’s rampart is later still. Last week I visited and saw it on the ground.

Then there is the chalk quarry just a little to the north.. known as the Devil’s Footprint. It runs from the rampart across the line of the road to the steeper slope to the west. Once it was covered in gorse but NT rangers have now made the earthwork clearly visible and it is not a random digging. It cuts the Ackling Dyke at a right angle. A wide formidable defence acting as a cross-ridge dyke.

Back in 2004, we radiocarbon dated the re-occupation of the hillfort to the 5th century, so good evidence that Badbury’s people re-made this place as a fortress. The British Dorset militia quickly threw up Badbury’s outer rampart and dug the wide trench, the ‘Devil’s Footprint’,to hold back the Saxon tide…. well..now..as the archaeology of the earthworks has demonstrated, there’s a strong argument to be made for this.

2016 yr 4 Chedworth Villa 7am

 

The last two were 12 hr days but late summer Chedworth at 7am is lovely.

Walking past the Victorian Lodge with tapes and drawing boards. Look right down the valley towards the new day. The mist still hiding the lower fields and hedgerows.. and around the excavations the spoil heaps steaming in the rising low sunlight, burning off last night’s showers.

Pull back the tarpaulins and capture the moment. Birdsong and video.

What information do we have now? What has been gathered from our two weeks of labour?

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

The disabled access ramp was dismantled to give us sight of the north end of the East Gallery. Our trench 4a.. which is really four adjacent trenches.

Carol completed the removal of turf from the SE corner of the great reception hall. The NE corner we saw in 2013 (good condition). The NW corner (rubbish condition) and the SW (brilliant) corner we uncovered in 2014. So Carol’s SE corner (60% survives) confirmed that the striped red and white mosaic design bordered the whole 18m long floor and that although it had been lost against the south revetment wall, this loss had revealed a narrower North Range wall line beneath the mosaic.

The mosaic forming the SE corner of the reception hall and the top right the door threshold into the north corridor. Below this is the wider revetment wall of the north range. No doorway visible from the East Gallery but the offset wall at the bottom of the ranging pole is probably where the Roman floor used to be. The flagstones on the left abut the revetment wall and this is a later wall forming the west side of the gallery. On the right is the broad buttress wall which may have infilled an earlier doorway. Our deep interesting trench is on the right side of this.

The mosaic forming the SE corner of the reception hall and the top right the door threshold into the north corridor. Below this is the wider revetment wall of the north range. No doorway visible from the East Gallery but the offset wall at the bottom of the ranging pole is probably where the Roman floor used to be. The flagstones on the left abut the revetment wall and this is a later wall forming the west side of the gallery. On the right is the broad buttress wall which may have infilled an earlier doorway. Our deep interesting trench is on the right side of this.

Down below, at the north end of the East Gallery, we came down onto clay below the 1906 and 1911 pennies. No Roman floor survived. The offset stone course probably marked where the floor once had been… but it was long gone.

There was no entrance evidence at the north end of the East Gallery into the North Range. In fact the creation of the corridor or gallery seemed a very late Roman after thought..certainly later than the wider North Range revetment wall. This wall’s foundation cut that of the revetment…but, from the archaeological evidence, the doorway through the wall used by the modern disabled access ramp seemed a real Roman feature.

Then there was the thick buttress built into the east gallery wall. The east gallery wall foundations go down and down and this proved to be an early Chedworth feature. The buttress matches the width of the doorway in the west wall and it was Bryn who suggested that the buttress filled an early doorway. A weak point that needed filling in.

It was the trench on the lower east side of the buttress which was interesting. It’s near cousins to the west had been a little disappointing..

Samian in charcoal amongst mortar and painted plaster at the base of the buttress.

Samian in charcoal amongst mortar and painted plaster at the base of the buttress.

Once the modern upper soils had been removed, we hit the AD 295-305 coin and then the 3rd – 4th century mortaria rim and then the tiny late 3rd century coin. Eventually the rich dark soils turned rusty brown and then into an orange brown decayed mortar full of tile fragments and pieces of deep blue and red painted plaster. Against the revetment wall, this mortar ran under its lowest course and beneath a large square paviour of limestone wedged between the buttress and the wall.

On the last morning I cleaned back the mortar layer and found a seam of charcoal within it and a fresh square of samian pottery was flicked out by the trowel point. This boundary between the upper and lower Chedworth courtyard levels seems to have been established by the 2nd century?

Needs some more work next year.

Then there is Fay and Rob’s trench in Room 21. An extraordinary slice through time. A sealed 1600 year old heap of stuff (including a door key! as well as all the decorative plaster). The stacks of tile pilae protruding like broken teeth from the debis. They lie in ordered lines but survive at different levels. The idea that the blocked doorway from the east once led via steps up to the floor above the hypocaust… doesn’t seem to work based on the level of the pilae.

The two lines of pilae on the east side of room 21. The blocked door is top right. The burnt plaster lines the wall along the left side of the photo. A broken channel of box flue tiles was attached to this wall. Part of the later heating system.

The two lines of pilae on the east side of room 21. The blocked door is top right. The burnt plaster lines the wall along the left side of the photo. A broken channel of box flue tiles was attached to this wall. Part of the later heating system.

The door seems already to have been redundant and blocked before the hypocaust was installed. Red plaster surviving on the door jamb and burnt plaster within the room at hypocaust level suggest a room at a lower level swept away for the new heating system which in turn was backfilled and sealed with a new Roman crushed brick floor later in the 4th century. The mid 4th century coins just below this floor help us with our dating.

The foundations of the east wall of this room lie on a good early Roman line linked to the plunge pool of the early Roman baths.It was abutted by the charcoal sample we took in 2014 giving us an early 2nd century date.

Trench 4c, on the west side of Room 20 showed us that Sir Ian Richmond’s suggestion that a flight of steps may have existed here leading down from the West Range into the colonnade of the North.. did not exist.. but we found evidence for a narrow access passage down into the boiler room for the early North Range steam heat baths.

Lastly…4d, Alex, Harry, Peter and Les heroically removing the claggy clay backfill of the 1962 water works at the Nymphaeum. The Nymphaeum being the stone shrine created in the 4th century in honour to the spirit of the water source, the reason Chedworth could be created here.

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The pipes issuing from the Roman Nymphaeum culvert. Notice the Victorian change of build above Roman foorings at the grass level. The 1962 concrete wall on the left marks the line of a wall probably redundant and robbed out before the Nymphaeum was built.

The discovery of three water pipes..the 1860s lead pipe heading for the Lodge and the two 1960s iron pipes heading for the north range. They had been shoved into the original 4th century culvert.. which survived though slightly damaged. It was 0.3m wide and 0.6m high with a stone floor. I drew it and noticed that the proper Roman stonework was slightly offset and only survived beneath the turf line. Above..at least on the south-east side, was all a Victorian rebuild…

…and Sir Ian’s 1962 concrete interpretive wall, which continued the line of the North Range running into the threshold stones of the Nymphaeum, was built on almost a metre of 1962 made up ground. No Roman stone wall was found. A robber trench had been cut into the natural yellow clay and concluded that this wall had been taken away before the Nymphaeum was built.

Sue, the marble expert came to see us and believes that Chedworth’s marble is so rare for this country that it must have been used at a very special location within the villa. She believes that the octagonal basin at the centre of the Nymphaeum would be such a sacred place. Chedworth’s Nymphaeum cannot be compared closely with any known structure in Roman Britain. So perhaps a particularly sacred site..

Over for another year. Many thanks to everyone who has helped and supported the archaeological work at Chedworth during the last two weeks.

With best wishes

 

Martin

 

Day 12 – the last hurrah

The last day is upon us, Martin is on site at the crack of dawn to get on with recording the trenches, while its quiet. When we get to site he has exposed more of the large stone in the Buckeye tree trench and enlists our help to lift it to see if it is carved. It appears to be shaped and shows signs of  wear from possible foot fall. Martin will look at it in relation to the rest of the trench and surrounding walls, so more later.

When moved the shaping of the stone is clearer. the edge at the top of the picture is smoother and angled down slightly. There is also an area in the bottom right that looks like a square area has been cut out.

When moved the shaping of the stone is clearer. The edge at the top of the picture is smoother and angled down slightly. There is also an area in the bottom right that looks like a square section has been cut out.

A side view of the stone, the sloping edge is on the left

A side view of the stone, the sloping edge is on the left

While everyone else started the task of back-filling the trenches, Carol finished the mosaic trench excavation, and Fay and Rob headed for the bath house trench looking for the floor level.

Back filling comenses

Back-filling commences

The back-filling produced one last find. Max, not to be out done by his Dad, Steve the finder of the key, found this object still found in may shops but more expensive now 🙂

An old Maltesser packet costing 1 shilling/5p so datable to about 1972

An old Maltesers packet costing 1 shilling/5p so datable to about 1972

Fay and Rob came up trumps! The floor of the hypocaust phase of the bath house room we have been excavating was found. The pilae are each sat on a large limestone slab which then sits on a very hard mortar floor. There is often nothing better than finding a good floor surface!

Three pilae with a box flue tile (bottom left of the picture) the lovely hard mortar floor inbetween

Three pilae with a box flue tile (bottom left of the picture) and the lovely hard mortar floor in between

Two other areas were excavated to check the floor carried on at the opposite end of the trench and it did

Two other areas were excavated to check the floor carried on at the opposite end of the trench, which it did

Once Martin had finished his recording of the floor and sections (sides) of the trench it was time to put back all the soil we had just spent two weeks digging out!

Martin taking some levels in the bath house trench

Martin taking some levels in the bath house trench

The spoil heap now you see it....

The spoil heap: now you see it….

....now you don't!

….now you don’t!

It only remains to thank all our wonderful volunteers especially our core team, Rob, Fay, Carol, Alex, Peter and Harry. So until next year its au revoir Chedworth Villa, thank you for making us so welcome and providing the Wows!

And finally .....

And finally …..

Day 11 – 21 today, 21 today…..

The last full day of digging as dawned and its all hands to the pump to get to the bottom of the bath house and gather the last ounce of information from all the trenches.

Eileen set to work in the Buckeye tree trench next to the cross passage ‘buttress’ her task was to find out what was happening next to the wall were the soil changed colour.

Eileen cleaning the last of the upper dark soil from the trench

Eileen cleaning the last of the upper dark soil from the trench

Eileen soon popped up to alert us to the answer,  a very large stone in the corner where the ‘buttress’ meets the corridor wall of the north range.

A very happy Eileen

A very happy Eileen

The top of the large stone on the right of the picture, with the 'buttress' wall to the right of the stone

The top of the large stone on the right of the picture, with the ‘buttress’ wall to the right of the stone

Carol was joined by John and Les in the mosaic trench to finish checking if the mosaics were in good condition.

Les enjoying revealing mosaic after a couple of days in the sticky clay Nymphaeum tench

Les enjoying revealing mosaic after a couple of days in the sticky clay Nymphaeum trench

Once again we travel past the bath house trench (more later :-)) up to the Nymphaeum  trench and Peter who has been gallantly digging through the sticky clay to find the  probably roman culvert from the Nymphaeum  spring. It looks like all his hard work has been successful, under the three metal pipes the wall continues and seems to be forming the sides of a stone culvert.

Peter determined to reach the roman culvert

Peter determined to reach the roman culvert

The probable roman stone culvert wall to the right of the pipes

The probable roman stone culvert wall to the right of the pipes

Now back down the steps to the bath house trench, were Fay and Rob are working hard to get to the bottom of the hypocaust pilae (the pillars that the floor sat on, so the hot air could circulate around)  and find what kind of floor is under them.

Rob and Fay working round the pilae to find the floor

Rob and Fay working round the pilae to find the floor

They were joined in the trench by our colleague Claudine, a National Trust archaeologist from Wales.

Claudine happy to be back in a trench digging

Claudine happy to be back in a trench digging

Steve and Max returned to give us a hand back filling. We were not ready to do any, so Claudine who needed to stretch her legs offered to let them dig the bit she was doing. Steve went first and within minutes had found a wonderful object under a piece of flue tile.

A roman Key next to another piece of flue tile

A roman Key next to another piece of flue tile

 

A well deserved find Steve, please don't feel guilty Claudine has forgiven you I am sure :-)

A well deserved find Steve, please don’t feel guilty Claudine has forgiven you I am sure 🙂

So the day ended with a fantastic find and Rob and Fay are poised above the floor. Half a digging day left, so it’s an early night for all.

Day 10 – Wow!

Two full digging days left, another hot day, the press coming and lots of roman specialist visiting to see what we have found. Our wonderful volunteers put their heads down and delivered the goods.

In the sticky clay trench next to the Nymphaeum Les and Peter carried on uncovering the water pipes, the lead one looks very Victorian rather than roman and seems to be diving deeper than the iron ones. No sign of any roman culverts yet.

Les and Peter managing to work through the sticky clay, the lead pipe is the nearest pipe curving downwards

Les and Peter managing to work through the sticky clay, the lead pipe is the nearest pipe curving downwards

Harry swapped place with Carol and carried on finding a rough wall in the trench behind the north bath house. This trench is nearly finished as it has provided some answers to the questions that dictated its position.

Harry happy with is work

Harry happy with is work

Moving past the north bath house trench, saving the best till last 🙂 we find the mosaic trench opened up yesterday. Carol has experience digging the mosaics so was put in charge of revealing a lot more, and checking the wall that joins the cross passage corridor. Jeannette and Mike joined her on the quest and as you can see found the white and red border just like we found in  the opposite  corner a few years ago.

Jeannette uncovering the second red band

Jeannette uncovering the second red band

Its great to share the joy of archaeology and we were very happy to provide a little digging experience for one of our regular visitors Mike

It’s great to share the joy of archaeology and we were very happy to provide a little digging experience for one of our regular visitors Mike. Great job Mike

Oh! the next trench behind the buttress under the Buckeye tree again provided a wow!  Kerry and Jackie were tasked with removing the dark layer in this trench, Martin had already removed this at one end and found a cut line, were one side is lighter and more yellow than the other. He found some pottery including part of a mortarium- for grinding ingredients for cooking. This trench had already produced the large roman coin and  now produced a very small roman coin! Kerry did a great job spotting this small minim especially with martin watching!

Kerry in the white hat just after her find. Jackie and Kerry being very careful to check their spoil before it goes in the bucket

Kerry in the white hat just after her find. Jackie and Kerry being very careful to check their spoil before it goes in the bucket

The coin –  dates to the 270s on fist look, we had three roman coin specialist on site today, including one who was a visitor from the Netherlands. It’s so small the picture is a bit blurry and I could not hold the camera still enough.

The coin - the spiky crown is know as a radiate

The coin – the spiky crown is known as a radiate

Now back to the bath house trench were the guys have been working hard in the hot conditions to get to the bottom of the rubble and plaster, to find if there is a floor from the earlier 2nd century room. Rob found a large iron object which looks like a wall tie of some kind but when lifted it appears to be more interesting but we will have to get it x-rayed to see its original shape.

Rob's iron object

Rob’s iron object

Last but not least ….Fay had been working for a few days digging past a large stone that would not budge and was in the way. She had found a few large building stones already and thought this would be the same. But it soon showed it was out of the ordinary as she removed more of the rubble layer. I think the pictures say it all but just in case here is what every one exclaimed WOW!!

A view from above

A view from above

A side view of the piece of column

A side view of the piece of column

The last full digging day looms and as the law of archaeology proclaims everything is found on the last day…………..

Day 5 The 4 Trenches and a day of moisture

I’m back in Warminster this evening so we have internet connection for the blog.

Our nice dry site became very wet today but we pressed on and made some good discoveries.

So from east to west.

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

Trench 4a: The north end of the East Gallery where it abuts the North Range. What is this corridor between 2 walls for? Was there ever a doorway into the North Range corridor from here? Is the disabled access route through the west wall into the courtyard original? What is the big thick wall against the North Range for?

Well, we’ve found that the original gallery floor level has gone. Below the soil containing 20th century coins was a worn hardcore layer of limestone which once supported the Roman floor.

Looking north-east showing the two walls of the East Gallery butting onto the higher North Range reception room (we will uncover the mosaic, if it is still there, under the turf top left next week). The probable doorway into the courtyard bottom left. Mortar floor cut by foundation trenches bottom left. Thick buttress wall top tight.

Looking north-east showing the two walls of the East Gallery butting onto the higher North Range reception room (we will uncover the mosaic, if it is still there, under the turf top left next week). The probable doorway into the courtyard bottom left. Mortar floor cut by foundation trenches bottom left. Thick buttress wall top tight.

No evidence of a door into the North Range and the threshold in the west wall to the courtyard is lost but there was probably an entrance there. The foundation trenches for the walls were excavated and the mortar floor between them is cut through by them and is therefore earlier. Any finds in the mortar floor or below it will pre-date the gallery and North Range wall

The thick wall in the east East Gallery wall is deeply rooted on a clay and mortar foundation and we think that it is a sturdy buttress to brace the North Range from downslope movement at a weak point where a wide doorway led from the great reception hall into the private apartments.

The east side of the buttress looking south west. Where the coin and carved stone fragment were found.

The east side of the buttress looking south west. Where the coin and carved stone fragment were found.

Sue excavated on the east side of the buttress where the early 4th century coin was found yesterday and discovered painted plaster and a carved fragment of stone column.

Room 21 Trench 3b/c: We have joined up the two trenches we had last year along the eastern edge of the changing room for the North Baths. We are now back into the 4th century time vault of the backfilled hypocaust. This afternoon Rob and Julian found additional pieces of the painted plaster jigsaw to link up with last year’s finds. This room is part of the early bath house room leading to the 2nd century tepid and hot baths which we part excavated in 2013.

Latest painted plaster finds from trench 3c this evening.

Latest painted plaster finds from trench 3c this evening.

The blocked doorway from the grand reception room is gradually being revealed.

Trench 4c: In Carol and Seb’s trench on the west side of the North Baths we are looking for steps down from the West Range into the North Range colonnade and steps down into the boiler room and fuel store which created the steam baths of the earlier bath house. We are still on backfilled Roman and later rubble with no trace of steps so far. The walls of the boiler room have been refaced and repaired in the 20th century and this helped to hide the evidence.

Investigating the south wall of the boiler room in 4c

Investigating the south wall of the boiler room in 4c

Trench 4d: The last trench is right at the water source in the north west corner of the villa site. Alex and John have been working in the wet clay there today. We are looking for the link between the North Range and the water shrine or Nymphaeum. A concrete path, one of the interpretation features of the 1960s put in by Sir Ian Richmond, seems to be built on clay rather than a Roman wall but at the end of the day Alex found a black soil layer under the clay. The Nymphaeum structure seem to be mostly Victorian on the east side but today we found the Roman stone under the 1860s stonework… but following a different angle.

The Nymphaeum north east wall showing the Roman stonework under the 1860s reconstruction.

The Nymphaeum north east wall showing the Roman stonework under the 1860s reconstruction.

We are hoping to find the main drain feeding the baths in this trench but it looks unpromising at the moment.

What will tomorrow bring? Wind and rain according to Holly on the local news.