28. Chedworth Roman Villa
Situated in the heart of the Cotswolds, Chedworth is one of the largest Roman villas in Britain.
The villa was accidentally discovered in June 1864 by two men working on the Stowell Park Estate who were ferreting for rabbits in the woods when their ferret got stuck down a hole. As they dug the ferret out they revealed a small patch of mosaic pavement.
Realising the significance of the find they reported it and it came to the attention of the young landowner – 19-year-old Lord Eldon. His uncle and guardian, James Farrer, was a keen antiquarian and organised the excavation of the site over the summer of 1864.
The dig revealed a series of huge and impressively intact mosaic floors, two bath houses, a water shrine, and more than a mile of Roman walls.
The excavations were financed by the Earl of Eldon, with a mock-Tudor lodge built to house the artefacts.
By 1865 a museum had been built on site, along with cover buildings to protect the main mosaics, and the villa ruins were being displayed to the visiting public. News of the dig spread and was reported in the newspapers.
Built in the 2nd Century AD, the villa at Chedworth was considered one of the largest and most lavishly decorated houses in Roman Britain.
As the sun set on the Roman Empire in the 5th Century, the villa had fallen to ruin and, over time, was reclaimed by nature, lying buried for over 1,000 years until the chance discovery in 1864.
In 1924 a public subscription bought the site from the Stowell Park Estate for the National Trust who have conducted a long-term conservation programme, with new on-site facilities and cover buildings.
In March 2012, the site fully reopened to the public after several years of extensive building and conservation work. The award-winning cover building over the West Range offers unrivalled views of the spectacular mosaics.
New discoveries are being made all the time. In 2012, new finds included a 2nd Century bathhouse, several buried mosaics and an impressive silver ring.
Chedworth Roman Villa is nows a popular, interactive attraction, with many events staged to enhance visitors' experience of the site and improve their understanding of the Roman way of life.
Visitors are invited to marvel at some of the amazing inventions brought to this country by the Romans - including mosaics, bathhouses, latrines and even under-floor heating.
Chedworth is still a pioneering centre for research, with strong links to several UK universities and academics, an exciting programme of live archaeology and a strong education programme.