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Roman Town House

Friday, March 26th, 2010

The Romans have left a lasting impression on Britain following their occupation of the island from AD43 until about AD410. The Romans introduced us to new developments in agriculture, urbanization, industry and architecture, leaving a legacy that is still apparent today. Most of our knowledge of Roman Britain stems from archaeological investigations and the Roman Town House at Colliton Park, Dorchester is one of the best preserved examples of a Roman Town House in the Country.

The Discovery

The Roman Town House was discovered, almost by chance, in 1937 during an archaeological dig. The County Council had bought the land at Colliton Park to build a new County Hall and this led the team from the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society to make a historical find – at least 8 buildings were discovered of which the Town House was the most important. The more recent work on the buildings and mosaics has enabled archaeologists to write the story of the building and to imagine more about the people who could have lived here.

Dorchester Roman Town House
Dorchester Roman Town House

The Roman Town House Past

The earliest part of the Town House dates from the first part of 4th Century and the building was expanded and adorned with fine mosaics around AD350. It was probably home to a local Romano-British family who may also have owned a farm or Villa nearby, and were most likely involved in the governing council of Durnovaria (the site of present-day Dorchester). This is the only fully exposed example of a Roman Town House in Britain.

When you visit the site, contact the telephone number 01305 230042 using your mobile phone and you will hear the music and voices of the Roman era along with additional facts to help you gain a deeper understanding of the life and times of this important site. There are also lots of information boards around the excavation area giving detailed background about this historical site.

Tony Robinson presenter of Chanel 4’s acclaimed archaeology series, Time Team, said

“It’s such an important site. For a start, it’s the only example of a fully exposed Roman Town House in the country and is definitely the best preserved.”

There are upcoming free events you and your family can attend to get the Roman experience.

DOMUS 10th to 12th April

Between 8pm and 10 pm you will be able to view a looped projection piece created by the Film maker Dan Farberoff and  PVA MediaLab.

The video is based on workshops which took place between 23 – 25th March with the aim to explore the site’s history and environment through the use of digital media, communicating through light the message of a unique and historic structure. The project was funded with £5000 from The Big Lottery Fund.

Dorchester Roman Festival 22 & 23rd May 2010

You can visit the atmospheric Roman amphitheatre at Maumbury Rings, between 22nd and 23rd May between 11am – 4pm to celebrate the 1600th anniversary of the end of Roman Rule. It is a free family event with Roman re-enactors Legio II Augusta providing displays by legionaries and gladiators and demonstrations of everyday life in Roman Britain.

The festival is being organised by Dorchester Roman Town House, Dorchester Town Council, Dorset AONB and Dorset County Museum.

What the Romans Did! 30 & 31st May Bank holiday weekend

Roman Mosaic
Roman Mosaic

This is another family event where you can all get creative at the Dorchester Roman Town House – Drop in between 10.30am to 5pm and make a mosaic and help make Roman costume jewellery. The Ancient Wessex Network will display art and craft inspired by the Romans and demonstrate their techniques using clay, metal and textiles.

If you are visiting on the bank holiday Monday, why not bring a picnic and take part in the National Family Week Picnic. Bring your picnic to the Roman Town House between 12.00 and 2.00pm and join in the World Record breaking attempt for the biggest picnic ever.

Please visit the Roman Town House website for more details on future events.

The Roman Town House is open all year round and admission is free. The Roman Town House is an ideal site for an educational visit. A guided tour and associated activities can be booked through the Dorset County Museum. Educational resources for use in the classroom are available through the Dorset County Schools Library Service.  For a fee, an artefact box can be loaned, the box contains a range of small items reflecting life in a Roman Town House over the period that the Dorchester House was occupied.

Joining the Friends of the Roman Town House will give you a chance to take part in events, meet new friends and learn more about the site. Membership starts at £5.00 per year for individuals and £10.00 for families.

Why not try a visit to the 360 degrees virtual tour of the Roman Town House to get an overview of this fantastic family attraction and be part of our Roman past. There are also many Roman finds to be found in the Dorset County Museum.

How to get to the Roman Town House

Pedestrian access is well signed from the top of the town to the entrance at Northernhay. The Town House is five minutes walk from the town centre and ten minutes from local rail stations.

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