New Museum Offers Guide To Small Town Roman Life

By David Prudames | 18 February 2004
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Shows a photograph of an enamelled fish-shaped brooch. Long and thin, the fish is marked with scales, fins and an eye.

Photo: enamelled fish-shaped brooch from around the second century AD. Courtesy Warwickshire Museum.

A new museum, which explores everyday life in a small Roman town, is set to open later this week in Alcester, Warwickshire.

A partnership project seven years in the making, Roman Alcester will be located on the ground floor of Globe House in the town and will be open to the public from Friday February 20.

The museum has been developed by Alcester Heritage Trust, Stratford District Council and Warwickshire County Council, aided by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of more than £200,000.

"We are delighted to be working with the people of Alcester to display this fantastic collection including objects of real beauty and skilled craftsmanship, locally," said Helen Maclagan, Head of Warwickshire County Council's Museum Service.

"This project allows the immense quantity of research into Alcester to tell the story of everyday life in Roman Warwickshire."

Shows a graphic image, depicting the logo of the new museum. A Roman head in profile at its centre, the logo has a small amount of Roman script in a semi-circle over the top, while bold text at the bottom reads, "Roman Alcester".

Photo: Courtesy Warwickshire Museum.

Established around AD 47, the town of Alcester grew up around a fort located on the Roman road of Icknield Street, which stretched hundreds of miles from the North East to the South West of England.

Thanks in part to being on the salt route from nearby Droitwich, Alcester evolved into a town of bustling streets, temples and workshops.

Designed specifically to evoke everyday life in Roman Alcester the museum will display the vast collection of artefacts discovered in the town, which have, up until now, been held at Warwickshire Museum.

As well these items, there will be an interactive area where visitors can handle bones, teeth and pieces of pottery.

In order to give some idea of how these extraordinary artefacts ended up on display, an archaeological dig has been recreated, while an audio commentary from Roman Alcester's market place will bring the age back to life.

Shows a photograph of a round brooch made up of rods of coloured glass set in a chequered pattern into a bronze background.

Photo: the impressive millefiori brooch was found in Alcester during excavations in 1979 and is made up of rods of coloured glass set into a bronze background. Courtesy Warwickshire Museum.

While curatorial support, alongside a £30,000 grant, has been provided by Warwickshire County Council, the new museum will be staffed by volunteers from Alcester Heritage Trust.

The trust was formed in 1996 to promote and pursue the concept of a museum dedicated to the town's Roman past.

Chairman David Moulson explained how he believes the new institution is something the people of the area can enjoy and be proud of.

"What makes Alcester special is that it's one of the best understood small Roman towns in the country," he said.

"There have been more than 100 professional digs in the area over the past 80 years, but until now many of the finds were in storage and not available for people to see."

Shows a photograph of a Samian-ware bowl, which is brown in colour, decorated with images of people and animals and has a large crack in the side.

Photo: also among the artefacts will be a samian-ware decorated bowl imported from Gaul. Courtesy Warwickshire Museum.

It is hoped the museum will promoting Alcester and encourage more visitors, which will, in turn, boost the local economy.

The museum will also have an important educational dimension and is expected to become an attraction for school parties.

Staff at Warwickshire County Council are in the process of putting together teacher packs and resources based on the exhibits and in line with the National Curriculum.

"Everybody has pitched in and it has been a tremendous community effort," added Stratford District and County Councillor Susan Juned.

"The new museum will give Alcester a sense of pride about its past. You can't see Roman Alcester above ground, yet it's one of the most complete and best-studied Roman towns in the country."

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