Brading Roman Villa is displayed within a purpose-built structure that allows visitors to walk above the excavated remains. The walkways are suspended above the remains and the main load is taken by the roof. Objects found during the excavations are displayed in cases around the route.
This replaced a earlier roofed structure whose supports can be seen alongside the remains.
The villa is preserved under the main structure. To the left is a cafe with a link reception and shop.
A mosaic showing Orpheus playing a lyre (with scarlet strings) is located in Room VI of the West Wing at Brading Roman villa. This position served as the main entrance to this part of the villa.
Orpheus is seated on a rock and wears a red Phrygian cap. He is surrounded to his right by an ape and a peacock, and to his left a bird and a fox.
J.M.C. Toynbee (Art in Roman Britain, no. 195) dated this mosaic to the 4th century AD and noted that it is ‘the best-preserved, and in many ways the most attractive, of all the British renderings of Orpheus himself’. Other examples of Orpheus on mosaics from Britain include Barton Farm Villa, outside Cirencester, and Woodchester Villa in Gloucestershire.
Toynbee suggests that heads appeared in the four corners of the mosaic.
See also Sarah Scott, ‘Symbols of Power and Nature: The Orpheus Mosaic of Fourth Century Britain and Their Architectural Contexts’ [TRAC]
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.
The mosaic from Thruxton in north-west Hampshire was discovered in 1823 and was presented to the British Museum in 1899 [catalogue]. John Lickman’s engraving of the mosaic from the time of the discovery showed that the central roundel contained an image of Bacchus seated on a feline. This was subsequently lost through plough damage.
In the corners of the mosaic were the four seasons. An inscription appears at the top containing a name: Quintus Natalius Natalinus et Bodeni. A further line of text is known from the bottom end of the mosaic although only two letters could be read.
The mosaic appears to come from a villa, and it probably should be dated to the period 250–350.
Further information: Martin Henig & Grahame Soffe, ‘The Thruxton Roman Villa and Its Mosaic Pavement’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association 146, 1 (1993), 1-28.
Among the mosaics still in situ in the Roman villa at Bignor is a panel of winter. The room was on the west side of the complex. The villa was discovered in July 1811, and the mosaics were opened to the public in 1814. Special buildings were constructed to protect the mosaics from further damage.