Woodchester Roman Villa


Part of the Woodchester mosaic, British Museum © David Gill

The Woodchester mosaic is first record in Camden’s Britannia (1695). It was partially unearthed in 1772 by Edmund Browne who made drawings of the remains. Samuel Lysons (bap. 1763–d. 1819) [ODNB] made more detailed recordings in 1794 and published a coloured drawing in 1796.

Lysons presented a small fragment of the mosaic to the British Museum in 1808.

Lysons was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1786, and Director of the Society from 1798 to 1809. He also undertook work at Bignor.

Appuldurcombe House: guidebooks


1986 (2nd ed.; repr. 2001)

Appuldurcombe is a major house on the Isle of Wight. The fragile structure was placed in State Guardianship in 1952. It had last been occupied in 1909.



The Ministry guidebook was prepared by L.O.J. Boynton (1967). This takes a different format to other ‘blue’ guides. It starts with an introduction, and then presents a short essay on the Worsleys of Appuldurcombe. This is followed by a long section on the building of Appuldurcombe, with sections on Sir Robert Worsley (1701–13), Sir Richard Worsley (1773–82) and the Yarborough period (1805–55) and after. Finally there is a description of the house and grounds. The text is supported iwth a block of 32 endnotes.  There are 9 black and white plates, and a table showing the 18th century cost of the house. Inside the back cover are plans of the park and of the house itself.


1967 (3rd impress. 1971)

The DOE guide (1971) is essentially the same as the earlier MPBW one except that it had integrated images. The English Heritage Guide (1986), that continues in print (most recently in 2009), is a revised and expanded version of Boynton’s 1967 text. It now starts with a tour and description, broken down into elements of the structure. This is followed by a history of Appuldurcombe starting in the Anglo-Saxon period. The final section is the building history. There are now 37 supporting endnotes.

This is one of several Ministry guides that continue to have a life under English Heritage.

Silvanus at Corinium


Corinium Museum © David Gill

A fragmentary altar to Silvanus was found at Circencester (Corinium) in the 19th century (RIB 104). It was dedicated by [.] Sabidius Maximus.

Anthony Birley has suggested a possible link with M. Sabidiu[s] Ma[ximus] known from an inscription found at Elbasan, Albania, on the route of the strategic Via Egnatia (AE 1937, no. 101) [JSTOR]. He served in various roles, including signifer, in the Legio IX Claudia, then as centurion in the Legio III Gallica (during the reign of Hadrian). Birley suggests that one of the Legions in which he served could be restored as the Legio I[I Augusta] (based at Caerleon).

Ellisland Farm and Robert Burns


Ellisland Farm © David Gill

Today we celebrate Burns Night (25 January 2018). Robert Burns lived at Ellisland Farm, to the north of Dumfries, from 1788 to 1781. He wrote some 130 songs and poems during this time. The farm is open to the public.

Westminster Abbey: Guidebooks



Stuart Rigold (1919–80) joined the Ministry of Works as an Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments in 1948 under Bryan O’Neil. One of his first tasks was to write a short (paper) guidebook of the Pyx Chamber at Westminster Abbey and issued by the Ministry of Works (1949; 2 d.). It consists of four pages starting with the history, showing that this part of the abbey could be placed during the reign of King Edward the Confessor, followed by a description. Page 3 consists of a plan of the Pyx Chamber.


1953 (4th impress. with amendments 1965; 1st ed. 1935)

In 1953 Rigold revised John George Noppen’s guidebook (1935) to the Chapter House and Pyx Chamber at Westminster Abbey. Noppen (1887-1951) had earlier published Westminster Abbey and its Ancient Art (London, 1926) and A Guide to the Medieval Art of Westminster (London, 1927).

The Ministry guidebook consisted of a history, followed by an architectural description, then sections on the sculpture, the paintings, the tiled pavement, the windows, and the exhibits (including the Roman coffin of Valerius Amandinus, RIB 16). Rigold notes the recent damage to the windows during the air-raids of the Second World War.  There is a fold-out plan at the back (showing the relationship between the chapter house and the Pyx Chamber).

From Octavian to Augustus


Bronze Augustus, National Museum, Athens © David Gill

On this day, 16 January 27 BC, Octavian was awarded the title Augustus ‘by decree of the Senate’.

This equestrian statue of Augustus was found in the sea between Ayios Evstratios and Euboea in 1979. It is now in the National Museum in Athens (inv. X 23322).