HAHG Lecture: Romans in Boxford – Farmstead, Two Villas & a Mosaic

On 5 November, the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group enjoyed a talk on “Romans in Boxford” given by Duncan Coe and Matt Nichol of Cotswold Archaeology, assisted by Lindsey Bedford of the Berkshire Archaeology Research Group.

Geophysical surveys and excavations have been performed at three Roman sites in the village of Boxford in West Berkshire. The first of these sites, Hoar Hill, contained a Roman villa, comprising two separate wings which were joined later, which was abandoned some time in the 4th century. The second site, Wyfield Manor Farm, was a farmstead, which, unusually, contained a corn drier – possibly suggesting brewing activity. But it was the third site, at the unglamorously-named Mud Hole, containing another villa, which was the most exciting.

This villa included an unusually large (6mX5m) and fine mosaic in one of its main rooms, which has attracted a good deal of international interest. It is thought that the mosaic was laid in about 380AD, close to the end of the Roman occupation, so the owners may not have had long to enjoy it! It was on view to the public this summer, but has since been carefully covered over as it would be too expensive to lift and store.

The mosaic featured scenes from classical mythology, including Bellerophon riding on Pegasus and slaying the three-headed monster, the Chimera.  Another scene shows the story of Pelops and his intended bride Hippodamia, the daughter of king Oenomaus, who was treacherously killed in a chariot race designed to decide on the marriage. As in many of such myths, the story did not end well.

The final meeting of 2019 will be the AGM on 3rd December, when members will give short talks on the subjects of their researches.