If you are looking for ways to spend the weekend away from the humdrum, then our “Dates for the Diary” series is for you.
This week we take a look at Fishbourne Roman Palace, near Chichester. Dating back to late first-century and even possibly to the invasion in AD43, it is one of the biggest Roman villa complexes in Europe and was discovered by a workman in 1960. The estate would easily have housed over 200 people and there is a debate in learned circles over whether the occupant was a Roman governor sent over to Britain or whether a local king was appointed as regional administrator.
What you see today is just one wing of the building – the North wing – as the entire palace burnt down and the stones were reused elsewhere. Given the lack of value for building, the mosaics were left untouched and thus survived. There is even one half of the central garden – now replanted and laid out on its original Roman plan.
The rest of the palace lies under a motorway and a row of houses but it is however, easy to imagine how it must once have been and you can see how impressive and imposing this structure must have seemed to the local villagers.
The intricate designs of the mosaic were created by skilled artisans who would have travelled the country, plying their wares – showing examples of the designs that a client could order – a sort of Roman catalogue of floor coverings!
If you would like to visit, the palace will be open daily in February from 10 am – 4pm and from March onwards, from 10am – 5pm. For more information, click here – it’s only GBP8.50 for an adult entry.
Contributor & photographer: Sue Lowry.
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