In Brief

Huge Roman villa found beneath Wiltshire back garden

Remains of luxury three-storey property are of 'unparalleled importance in recent years'

Builders working in a back garden in Wiltshire have stumbled across the remains of what archaeologists believe to be one of the largest Roman villas ever discovered in Britain.

The property now lies beneath the site of Luke Irwin's family home in the south Wiltshire village of Tisbury.

Workmen laying cable found what appeared to be a piece of Roman mosaic in the garden last summer.

Irwin contacted the Wiltshire Archaeology Service, Historic England and the Salisbury Museum to notify them of the find, little expecting the discovery that was to come.

Experts investigating the area realised it was the site of an enormous Roman villa, with more than 20 rooms on the ground floor alone.

The Roman house, known as Deverill Villa, after the house that now occupies the plot, is believed to have been three storeys high. 

Built between 175AD and 220AD, it was apparently occupied for more than 200 years, with evidence of re-modelling dating from the mid-fourth century. Items found on the site include underfloor heating pipes and oyster shells, suggesting that the wealthy inhabitants enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle.

Historic England archaeologist Dr David Roberts told the Daily Telegraph that it was rare for excavators to find remains so undisturbed by later agricultural or industrial activity.

"This site has not been touched since its collapse 1,400 years ago and, as such, is of enormous importance. Without question, this is a hugely valuable site in terms of research, with incredible potential," he said, adding that the discovery was of "unparalleled importance in recent years".

Astoundingly, after their initial investigations, archaeologists were forced to re-bury their findings because Historic England cannot afford to fully excavate and preserve the site.

Under current financial pressures, Dr Roberts said, the public body is unable to spare the hundreds of thousands of pounds necessary for the exploration and upkeep of the site. However, experts hope to raise the funds to return to the project at a later date.

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