- Your visit
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Rockbourne Roman Villa is a unique archaeological site and museum, situated in a peaceful part of Hampshire near the historic town of Fordingbridge, on the edge of the New Forest.
Here you can walk amongst the remains of the largest known villa complex in the area, which once stood in the centre of a large farming estate. Its history spans the period from the Iron Age to the 5th century AD. The villa site includes the remains of bath houses, living quarters, farm buildings and workshops.
You can also see the best preserved of the mosaics discovered here, as well as part of the underfloor heating system and the outline of the villa's forty rooms. Many of the finds from the site are displayed thematically in the museum and tell the story of what life was like in this fascinating place. Outside, information boards guide you around the site and there is a family friendly trail that accompanies them.
Things to do
Rockbourne is a great place for the whole family to enjoy. Here are just a few of the things you can do during your visit:
- Explore the ruins and see the Roman mosaic
- Visit the museum and see what Roman life was like
- Picnic in the grounds and you can bring your dog
- Follow our fun activity sheet and make your own mosaic to take away
- Browse the museum shop
A chance discovery
The discovery of the remains of this important villa began in 1942, by a local farmer digging out his ferret in a corner of a field on West Park Farm. It was during this activity a large quantity of oyster shells and small, mosaic tiles (tesserae) were brought to the surface. After notifying local antiquarian Morley Hewitt, who recognised the significance of the finds and subsequently purchased the land, a 30 year period of excavation began.
One of the most stand out features excavated on the site were a number of fine mosaics. Unfortunately, some of the most elaborate perished before excavation, but two of the remaining examples are on public display, alongside the remains of a Hypocaust (under floor heating system), which would have warmed the mosaic floor of one of the villa’s luxurious bath suites.
One of the most remarkable finds you will see on display is a hoard of 1,717 coins. 493 of these coins are currently on display with the original pot; a grey storage jar which was buried one foot below the surface. It is likely that the Hoard was a ritualistic offering to the Gods, perhaps with the hope it would bring the landowners a good harvest.
During excavations in 1965, outside the remains of a large dining room, an adult skeleton was found buried face down in a shallow grave. The reason why this man should have been buried at the villa is unknown, as is the date of his burial, although it is likely he was buried after Roman occupation had ended. The full skeleton can be seen on display in the museum.
This brass Byzantine bucket was found at nearby Breamore in 1999 and was the first indication of a previously unknown and nationally important early Anglo Saxon cemetery. After some initial investigations the site was excavated by Time Team during a live broadcast, which took place over 3 days, in August 2001.
The bucket is one of only three examples from England, the style of decoration and method of manufacture suggest that it was made in Antioch, Turkey in the sixth century AD. A replica of the bucket commissioned by Time Team is on display in the museum.
A place for families
There are plenty of activities inside the museum for families to enjoy, making it a great place to visit whatever the weather. From dressing up as a Roman soldier to handling real Roman artefacts, there are lots for children to try. We also run craft activities and special events in the holidays.