building complex lies at the head of Chichester harbor
1.6 km W of the town. Excavations in 1961-69 have
revealed traces of occupation from the Roman invasion
ln A.D. 43 until the early 4th c. In the first phase (43 to
50) a group of timber store buildings were erected on
either side of the stream which flowed into the harbor.
They are of military type and probably represent part
of a military supply base erected at the time of the invasion for use in the conquest of SW Britain. In the
early 50s the military buildings were replaced by timber houses of a civilian type, roads were remetaled, and
bridges built. During the 60s the main timber residence
was replaced by a masonry building (the protopalace),
which consisted of a range of rooms attached to a
colonnaded garden with elaborate Corinthian columns.
At one end of the building range was a substantial bath
suite. The rooms were originally decorated with mosaics,
opus-sectile, marble veneering, and wall paintings. Another masonry building, apparently unfinished, lay W of
About A.D. 75 work began on a large building which
incorporated the protopalace in its SE corner. The main
part of the palace consisted of four wings enclosing a
large central garden. To the S of the S wing lay another
garden stretching down to the sea, where wharfs and
jetties were constructed. On the N side of the N wing
was an enclosed yard for various domestic activities such
as milling and baking. The entire E side of the complex
was flanked by a road, joined at right angles by the
main road from Chichester. The N garden with its enclosing ranges was laid out on an E-W axis continuing
the line of the approach road. Astride the axis, in the
E wing, lay an entrance hall that opened onto a central
pathway lined with bushes leading across the garden to
an audience chamber in the center of the W wing. The
main complex was largely symmetrical about this axis,
except for the E wing which incorporated the protopalace.
On the N side of the entrance hall, in the E wing,
were two colonnaded gardens flanked by suites for visitors. The NE corner was occupied by a large aisled hall,
possibly an assembly hall with religious connotations.
The N wing consisted of a series of rooms arranged in
an E, with small colonnaded gardens between the short
arms; the entire S side was closed by a continuous colonnade opening on to the main garden. All the rooms
originally had mosaic pavements, of which substantial
parts survive. The planning of the range suggests provision for visitors in sumptuous self-contained suites.
Only the N part of the W wing has been excavated.
Its rooms were large and public, increasing in size towards the central audience chamber; all were once
floored with mosaics. The audience chamber was a
square room with a bench-lined apsidal recess set in one
wall. It was originally roofed with a stucco vault and
approached by a flight of steps from the garden. Little
is known of the S wing, which lies beneath modern houses
and a main road, but it would appear to have been the
owner's private residence. The identity of the first
owner is uncertain, but it is a strong possibility that the
palace was built for the local client king, Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus.
Throughout the 2d and 3d c. the building continued in
use but was drastically modified by demolitions, additions, and the laying of several polychrome mosaics. In
the late 3d c. it was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt.
The N half of the palace is now open for inspection:
the N wing is entirely exposed beneath a protective building and the garden has been replanted according to its
Roman plan. A site museum houses the archaeological
B. Cunliffe, Excavations at Fishbourne
1-2 (1971); id., Fishbourne: A Roman Palace and its
B. W. CUNLIFFE