Bignor Roman Villa
is a large Roman courtyard villa
which has been excavated and put on public display on the Bignor
estate in the English
county of West Sussex
. It is well-known for its high quality mosaic
floors, which are some of the most complete and intricate in the country.
The villa is situated just north of the South Downs
close to Stane Street
, about 9 miles north-east of Chichester
(the Roman city of Noviomagus Regentium
) and the nearby and much larger Fishbourne Roman Palace
. It is on the south-facing slope of a ridge of greensand
which provided better conditions for agriculture than the nearby chalk
; this fact and its proximity to Roman Chichester meant that the owners were able to become wealthy from farming.
Discovery and excavations
George Tupper, a farmer, discovered the villa in 1811 when his plough hit a large stone. It was almost entirely excavated by John Hawkins
who lived at nearby Bignor Park, and the antiquary
, Samuel Lysons
. Opened to the public in 1814, it rapidly became a tourist attraction
, with nearly a thousand entries in the visitors' book in the first nine months.
By 1815 the remains of a substantial villa had been uncovered and protective buildings had been erected over several of the mosaics. In 1818 Samuel Lysons read his third and final paper on the villa to the Society of Antiquaries
. He had already published a series of engravings of the villa with the help of Richard Smirke and Charles Stothard. These engravings together with... Read More