London: One of Britain’s biggest and most elaborate Roman villa has been unearthed by chance by a homeowner laying electric cables in his garden at Wiltshire in south-west England.
The elaborate ancient home was found by a rug designer, Luke Irwin, while he was laying electricity cables under his farmhouse so that his children could play table tennis in an old barn.
He uncovered an untouched mosaic, and excavations revealed a villa described as “extraordinarily well-preserved”
Historic England, a government service championing England’s heritage, said it was “unparalleled in recent years”.
Dr David Roberts, archaeologist for Historic England, said: “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 1,500 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.”
Irwin, a Dublin-born rug designer who makes hand-made silk, wool and cashmere rugs, made the find last year during work on his farmhouse so that his children could play table tennis under lighting in an old barn.
He called in experts from the Wiltshire Archaeology Service, Historic England (formerly English Heritage) and nearby Salisbury Museum.
Further exploratory excavation of the site – now known as the Deverill Villa after the name of Irwin’s 17th century house – found surviving sections of walls, one and a half metres in height, confirming that the mosaic formed part of a grand villa, thought to have been three-storeys in height, its grounds extending over 100 metres in width and length, ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ said.
It is thought the villa, which had around 20 to 25 rooms on the ground floor alone, was built sometime between 175 AD and 220 AD, and was repeatedly re-modelled right up until the mid – 4th century.
Finds including hundreds of oysters, which were artificially cultivated and carried live from the coast in barrels of salt water, suggest that the villa was owned by a wealthy family.
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