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  1. ITV Report

'Elaborate' Roman villa discovered by chance in Wiltshire

An "elaborate and extraordinarily well-preserved" Roman villa has been discovered by chance in Wilshire.

Roman Villa which was discovered by home owner Luke Irwin whilst he was laying electric cables Credit: Aerial Filming Services Ltd/Past Landscapes Project/PA

A Wiltshire farmhouse owner was laying electric cables in his garden, when he found a high-quality Roman mosaic in the ground.

Luke Irwin then called in archaeological experts, and an eight-day dig unearthed the home of a wealthy family living in luxury in what could be one of the largest such villas in the country.

Of his discovery, rug designer Luke Irwin said: "I was overwhelmed by the realisation that someone's lived on this site for 2,000 years.

"You look out at an empty field from your front door, and yet 1,500 years ago there was the biggest house, possibly, in all of Britain."

Roman mosaic, found in a Roman Villa which was discovered by home owner Luke Irwin Credit: Aerial Filming Services Ltd/Past Landscapes Project/PA

The dig, conducted by Historic England and Salisbury Museum, produced finds including oysters, coins and brooches which suggests at the wealth of the previous occupants.

The bones of animals including a suckling pig, wild animals which had been hunted, a Roman well, and a Roman child's coffin were also discovered.

Roman child's coffin, found in a Roman Villa in Wiltshire Credit: Aerial Filming Services Ltd/Past Landscapes Project/PA

The villa - which is being compared to the Roman home at Chedworth, Gloucestershire, in size and wealth - was built sometime between 175 AD and 220 AD and was repeatedly remodelled up to the mid 4th century AD.

The dig also revealed occupation of the site dating back to a pre-Roman roundhouse.

And archaeologists found evidence of fifth-century pottery and timber structures within the partly ruined villa, suggesting the presence of a Romano-British family who did not have the resources to live in the house but remained at the site.

Significant find

Dr David Roberts, Historic England archaeologist, said the find was very significant for a number of reasons.

This site has not been touched since its collapse 1,400 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.

– Dr David Roberts, Historic England archaeologist

All large Roman villas found in the UK were important, he said, while this villa's high state of preservation and the finds of material dating from the 5th century, a post-Roman but pre-Saxon period for the region, also made it significant.