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WOODCHESTER Gloucestershire, England.

Roman villa, 2.4 km S-SW of Stroud, beneath and around the ruined Norman church. It was excavated in 1793-96 and partially in 1954. Its origins and development are not known, but in its final 4th c. form the buildings were grouped around a series of two, or probably three, rectangular courtyards. The main residential buildings surrounded the innermost (NW) court (30 x 27 m). From this a passage in the SE side led to the second court (48 x 45 m), which was flanked by farm buildings. Of the presumed third court only the NW and SW sides were located.

The butt-ends of walls on the 18th c. plan indicate that further buildings existed outside those flanking the inner court, and the main bath suite was not found. Even so, however, the villa was large (150 by 97.5 m) and had at least 65 rooms. It was also very rich, with marble statuary and no less than 20 mosaics, including the celebrated Orpheus pavement. Adorning the triclinium, 14.7 m square and placed centrally in the NW side of the inner court, it is the finest known product of the 4th c. Corinian school of mosaicists, to whom the other pavements are also attributable. The remains of the villa are buried, but the Orpheus mosaic is periodically opened to public inspection in aid of local charities.

Further excavations were begun in 1973.


S. Lysons: An Account of Roman Antiquities discovered at Woodchester in the county of Gloucester (1797); id., Reliquiae Britannico-Romanae II (1813); H. O'Neil, Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. 74 (1956) 172-75; R. G. Collingwood & I. A. Richmond, The Archaeology of Roman Britain2 (1969) 143; mosaics: D. J. Smith in A.L.F. Rivet, ed., The Roman Villa in Britain (1969) 97-101; D. J. Smith, The Great Pavement and Roman Villa at Woodchester, (1973).


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