New images of Rutland’s Roman villa

Earlier this year, CA reported the discovery in Rutland of a stunning Roman mosaic featuring scenes from the Trojan War. It was inside the opulent dining room of ‘a sprawling late Roman villa complex, complete with barns and potential bathhouses’, parts of which were excavated in 2020 and 2021 by University of Leicester Archaeology Services (ULAS), with funding and support from Historic England (CA 383). ULAS commissioned SUMO Geophysics (SGL) to carry out surveys of the site combining magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and now SGL has shared images from their results, revealing further details of the villa complex and its surrounds.

IMAGE: SUMO Geophysics.

‘The results proved to be simply stunning,’ said Dr John Gater, Director of Archaeological Geophysics at SGL, who oversaw the surveys. ‘Based on the magnetic survey, we interpreted that the site could have been occupied in the Iron Age and defended by multivallate curvilinear ditches on a promontory above a river, though subsequent excavation has indicated that these features are Roman in date. Whatever the origin, the site subsequently grew into a large Roman estate defined by up to five linear ditches to the west and north, with fewer ditches on the east and south. The core of the site includes a complex of magnetic responses which we believe are indicative of building remains, furnaces, kilns, and pits.’

Complementing these results, the GPR survey revealed a complex of structures, including the main villa and various subsidiary villa buildings, possible mausolea, a probable bathhouse, farm buildings, and water wells. ‘In addition, we believe there is a smaller building which could be a chapel and two parallel rows of large pits which may indicate an aisled hall,’ John said. ‘We would love this to be Anglo-Saxon in date, but may well be Roman.’

The University of Leicester and Historic England are planning future excavations at the site, and further multispectral and photogrammetry data, recorded by Adam Stanford of SUMO’s Aerial Division, will be published at a later date. We hope to bring you more details from the Rutland villa site as these emerge – and to do the new images full justice, we will reprint the above larger as next month’s Context spread.