Barton Farm Villa: Orpheus

Barton Farm Villa (Corinium Museum) © David Gill

The Orpheus mosaic was discovered at Barton Farm outside Circencester in 1825. At the centre is the figure of Orpheus, wearing a Phrygian cap, and playing a lyre. The mosaic is dated to the fourth century AD.

A circle of birds surround Orpheus, among them a peacock.

Barton Farm Villa (Corinium Museum) © David Gill

Orpheus’ music has enchanted a group of animals, among them a lion, a tiger and possibly a leopard. The front of a fragmentary fourth animal can be seen.

Barton Farm Villa (Corinium Museum) © David Gill

The Corinium Museum has displayed the mosaic so that it can be viewed from the first floor of the museum.

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.

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).

Cavalryman from Corinium

Tombstone of Sextus Valerius Genialis, Corinium Museum © David Gill

The Corinium Museum contains a particularly find Roman tombstone of a Roman cavalryman, eq(u)es, Sextus Valerius Genialis. It was discovered at Watermoor towards the south-east corner of the (later) Roman town of Cirencester.

The relief shows Genialis riding over a fallen soldier, and aiming his lance downwards. In his left hand he has a hexagonal shield as well as what appears to be a military standard.

The tombstone is dated to the late 1st century or early 2nd century AD.

Tombstone of Sextus Valerius Genialis, Corinium Museum © David Gill

The inscription (RIB 109) reads:

Sextus Valerius Genialis, trooper (eq(u)es) of the Cavalry Regiment of the Thracians, a Frisiavone tribesman, from the troop (turma) of Genialis, aged 40, of 20 years’ service, lies buried here. His heir set this up.

Genialis came from Gallia Belgica. The unit is known to have been in Britain as late as 124, but then transferred to the Rhine.

Tombstone of Sextus Valerius Genialis, Corinium Museum © David Gill

Hetty Pegler’s Tump


The DOE produced a short guide by L. V. Grinsell to the Neolithic chambered mound known as Hetty Pegler’s Tump, at Uley in Gloucestershire. The mound is under state guardianship (English Heritage) – since 1883 – and is managed by Gloucestershire County Council. The mound is named after the Peglers, the 17th century owners of the field in which the mound is located.

The folded concertina guide has five sections on each side: description, excavations, later history; possible origins; and principal literature. There is a detailed plan of the main burial chambers, and one showing how the chambers fit into the mound.

The guide cost 6p and was published in 1970. It is similar in format to the guide for Hardknott Roman Fort.

Other Cotswold-Severn burial chambers are also in the care of English Heritage and Cadw.


UCS Heritage Professor Shortlisted in Poetry Competition

Rotas Opera
Latin inscription from Cirencester © David Gill

Professor David Gill, Director of Heritage Futures at UCS, has been shortlisted in the first Corinium Museum poetry competition. The Corinium Museum in Circencester is one of the leading Roman collections in the UK. The winning and shortlisted poems will be displayed in the museum alongside the objects.

Professor Gill’s poem, ‘Sowing Letters’, was inspired by a Latin acrostic inscription cut into wall plaster that was found in a Roman house at Cirencester in the 1860s. The five lines of text can be read from left to right, right to left, or vertically. The letters can be re-arranged to form the first two Latin words of the The Lord’s Prayer (‘Pater Noster’) with ‘A’ and ‘O’, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet that allude to Jesus Christ as the beginning and the end. The text is perhaps one of the earliest allusions to Christianity found in the British Isles.

The earliest known version of the inscription has been discovered at Pompeii, destroyed during the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Another has been excavated at the site of Dura-Europus on the river Euphrates in what is now modern Syria.

Professor Gill’s poem uses two of the Latin words from the inscription to provide an acrostic structure to his work.

Under Another Sky


I have been enjoying Charlotte Higgins, Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain (Vintage 2014). It took me on a tour of some of the key sites in Britain: and I was able to revisit some of them in my mind. Chapter 1 takes us from the beach at Deal (and Caesar’s landings) to the Roman colony at Colchester. Chapter 2 considers Boudica and Norfolk, with a stroll round Castor St Edmund (and I always make sure I sit on the correct side of the train to get the magnificent view of the town on the way up to Norwich). Chapter 3 searches out the remains of Roman London including trips into underground car-parks. Chapter 4 takes me back to my roots with happy walks around Silchester and its now carefully present amphitheatre. Chapter 5 looks westwards to Wroxeter and sites in Wales. It includes detail on explorations of the Wheelers including the legionary amphitheatre at Caerleon. Chapter 6 takes us to Bath and the Roman baths. We then head north in Chapter 7 to Hadrian’s Wall, complete with the music for Benjamin Britten’s ‘Roman Wall Blues’, and in Chapter 8 to the Antonine Wall. Chapter 8 takes a tour of York, and then in Chapter 9 there is a trip to Cumbria and the Roman fort in Hardknott Pass. There is even a mention of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet (“I asked the Christie’s people how much work had been done  on the helmet to present it thus. Not much, they said breezily”.). Higgins then hopped down the Fosse Way to the Cotswolds for Chapter 11 (why not have it next to Bath in Chapter 6?) and a visit to Cirencester and the Corinium Museum as well as Chedworth villa. The final chapter (12) sees a return to Norfolk and Suffolk with a trip to Burgh Castle and thoughts on the Mildenhall Treasure.

Guides for Chedworth Roman Villa


Chedworth Roman Villa was acquired for the National Trust in 1924. The site is located in the Cotswolds.

Sir Ian A. Richmond prepared a 15 page guide in 1966. This was revised (‘in the light of recent work on the site’) by Roger Goodburn in 1981 guide (16 pages, paper). A reconstruction was placed on the cover, and there is a double page plan of the villa in the centre showing the sequence of construction, and then a second set of plans for the bath complex in the northern range. Essentially the guide introduces the concept of the villa and then described the ‘discovery, situation and plan’ (pp. 3-4). The rest of the guide consists of a room by room guide, with a short section on the Museum (pp. 14-15).

(1979 [2002])

Goodburn prepared a more detailed illustrated guide in 1979 (my revised copy dates to 2002). This is illustrated with black and white images as well as plans. The main sections are:

  • The exploration of the site and a brief history of the villa
  • The Chedworth region in the Roman period
  • The growth of the house
  • The mosaics
  • The Museum (including a section on the coins by Richard Reece)
  • Buildings in the locality probably associated with the villa
  • The life and economy of Chedworth
  • The fate of Chedworth and its neighbours

There is a bibliography for the site.


The 2012 guide is by Simon Esmonde Cleary. It is fully illustrated in colour and has a fold out plan at the front.

The sections are:

  • Rise and fall and discovery
  • A golden age
  • The decline of the Empire
  • Springing from the earth
  • Preserved for the public
  • Landscape and layout
  • The villa’s layout
  • Life in the villa
  • Decoration
  • Religion
  • Conserving and learning
  • Open to public view
  • Concerning conservation
  • Nature conservation
  • The story so far

The rooms appear in double page spreads with plans and reconstructions, e.g. The west range, the dining room, the west bath house, the north wing, the north bath house, room for interpretation (a wonderful bit of honesty!), the south wing, the kitchen, and the latrine.

There is a section on the Museum.

There is a note about the room numbers that were assigned in the Victorian period.

I particularly like the stress on a heritage site as a home for nature conservation with lizards and a distinctive type of snail (see here).

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