National Trust Launches Appeal To Preserve Britain's Roman Heritage

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 02 June 2008
Photo of a mosaic depicting a semi naked figure

One of the stunning mosaics at Chedworth. © NTPL

From the wall that Emperor Hadrian built to ward off marauding Scots to some of the grandest villas inhabited by Roman noblemen, survivals from Britain's Roman past are truly fascinating.

And yet there's more we could find out about them, and more we could do to preserve them, says the National Trust, which has launched a fundraising appeal to preserve works on our major Roman sites.

With a target of £400,000, the Roman Britain Appeal aims to support sites in need of urgent conservation, new archaeological investigations and new experiences for visitors to Roman sites, which date back nearly 2,000 years.

"The Romans had an extraordinary impact of British life, culture and history, from road building and surveying to central heating and cookery," said David Thackray, the National Trust's Head of Archaeology. "Wherever you look, these are examples of the Roman legacy."

"We must continue to do all we can to preserve this heritage but also to present it in a way that is accessible, relevant and exciting to the next generation. The funds raised from the Roman Britain Appeal will breathe new life into some of the country's most inspiring and important sites."

Photo of an excavated hypocaust system - it looks like small brick columns arranged in what would once have been an underfloor space

Part of Chedworth's hypocaust, an early underfloor heating system. © NTPL

Among the main projects that will benefit from the cash raised are Chedworth Roman Villa in Gloucestershire, Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland and Dinefwr Estate in Wales.

Chedworth contains the remains of one of the largest and grandest Roman villas in Britain. Dating from the 4th century, beautiful mosaics, two bathhouses, hypocausts, a water shrine and a latrine can be seen.

The current structures covering the remains date from the first discovery of the villa in 1864, and now need replacing. New low-impact buildings are planned to provide protection for the villa remains, which will also allow excavation of mosaic floors currently underground to take place in front of visitors.

Hadrian's world-famous wall, meanwhile, doesn't have any protection from the elements, which can be a little harsh in the far north. The 9.6km (six mile) stretch cared for by the National Trust is an important part of the wall, featuring the military settlement Housesteads Fort. Planned works will enable visitors to enter the fort via the original gatehouse, the same entrance used by Roman soldiers.

Photo of a mosaic depicting foliage emerging from a bowl

Another amazing survival from 1,700 years ago at Chedworth. © NTPL

The remains of two Roman forts were discovered five years ago on the National Trusts' Dinefwr Estate, which is best known for its 12th century castle and 18th century landscaped park.

Lack of funding has meant little exploration of the Roman elements, however, so new funds will go into archaeological research and excavations on a Roman settlement nearby, visible on the same geophysical survey. Opportunities for public involvement will be created as the history is uncovered.

"We cannot allow our priceless Roman history to slip into neglect, now or in the future," commented Time Team presenter Tony Robinson. "An appreciation of our Roman past is an important part of understanding who we are and where we came from. The National Trust's appeal will enable us all to show the Romans what we can do for them."

Lend your support to the appeal at:
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/romanbritain or telephone 0844 800 1895.

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