Roman Villa and Saxon Minster Discovered in Gloucestershire

The remains were discovered just hours before the trench was due to be filled back up. Image Credit - Tim Davies.

Evidence of an imperial Roman villa has been discovered in Gloucestershire, England – just hours before archaeologists were due to fill its trench back up. The remains, a large quantity of Roman wall plaster, were found last Friday (June 11) as a Bristol University team led by TV archaeologists Dr Stuart Prior and Prof Mark Horton were winding up work at the site, which has already offered proof of Saxon settlement.

The remains, in the grounds of Berkeley’s Edward Jenner Museum, also include Roman coins and roof tiles. The villa is likely to date from the 3rd or 4th century AD, and could even be an imperial settlement of Romans from nearby Gloucester. The last-ditch Roman relics were discovered after the team had already found evidence of extensive religious activity during the Anglo-Saxon period, around the 9th or 10th century.

“In the closing moments of the dig we found the best evidence yet that a Roman villa lay under Berkeley, probably under the church,” Prof Horton, a presenter on BBC series Coast, tells the Gloucestershire Gazette. “We are lucky that on this site the soil is clay because it preserves things beautifully so we have had some finds in very good condition.”

“This is a really exciting find.”

Horton and Prior believe the Saxon settlement may have been a minster, a walled religious community, where high status women lived. Saxon artefacts at the site include a belt-strap with the face of a dragon, and a road leading to nearby St. Mary’s Church.

However it is the team’s last-ditch Roman discovery which will keep them coming back to Berkeley. “This is a really exciting find,” says Dr Prior. “We will come back next year to Berkeley because there is definitely more Roman finds waiting to be discovered.”

Prof Horton isn’t the only TV expert making waves in the archaeological world this week. Tony Robinson, presenter of lonstanding archaeology show Time Team, has been singing the praises of Scotland’s ancient heritage. A recent Time Team special uncovered several secrets surrounding Stonehenge, Britain’s best-loved ancient landmark.