Boxford Mosaic Blog for July 2019
An appreciative audience of around 30 members and visitors listened to a presentation by Janet Fuller, of the Boxford History Group, called Roman Boxford, Bath House, Beer and Bellerophon.
The plans for the Boxford digs began in 2012 as a result of Roman finds, such as ceramics and tiles, on the surface of local fields in two areas and the report in 1871 from the Newbury District Field Club of a local historian unearthing a Roman villa in a third area. Those involved were the Boxford History Group, Berkshire Archaeology Research Group and Cotswold Archaeology. They obtained a £50,000 Heritage Lottery grant, as it was a community led project and it was decided to dig one of the three areas each of the following years. Discovered were, at Hoar Hill in 2015 a Roman villa including a bath house, at Wyfield Manor in 2016 several buildings including a corn dryer and in 2017 at Mud Hole a villa with the amazing mosaic.
At Hoar Hill the geophysical images appeared to show a villa and 6 trenches produced a courtyard villa layout. It was at its peak in the 3rd century and would have had a wonderful view across the valley, there were many finds but no mosaic. The Wyfield Manor Farm site had been inhabited since the middle or late Iron Age to 4th century AD when it was a large Roman farmstead .
At the Mud Hole site, the foundation of a large villa had been explored in 1871, No evidence of agricultural production was found in the 2018 dig but the mosaic discovery caused huge excitement especially as there were so many unusual and rare aspects to the mosaic. It was reported all over the world, as the most significant find in the last 50 years. As a best guess the team believe that the owner of the Mud Hole villa could have been a learned classical scholar who employed a talented amateur mosaic layer to impress the local gentry.
The 2019 project is to completely uncover the mosaic, as only 40/ 50% was uncovered in 2018. Two other trenches are planned. A middle trench which might uncover an entrance hall with perhaps another mosaic and the third to look for the warm and hot plunge pools of the end bath house. The dig will start on 20th August this year depending on the weather and the harvest and if everything goes to plan there will be an OPEN DAY 31st.
Experts don’t agree on how best to protect the mosaic when it needs to be reburied but it has been decided to sieve all stones etc from the soil that has been covering the mosaic all these years and use this soil to completely recover the mosaic. The landowner has agreed to refrain from ploughing in the area of all three digs. It has not been possible to get the site protected by Historic Building England. Updates on the dig will be available at
The websites below give lots of information and images from the previous digs including the unusual mosaic.