For budding archaeologists, or any fans of Roman gladiators, Fishbourne Roman Palace is the place to be. In 1960, amid rumours of there being remains in the area, workmen accidentally discovered the site whilst digging for a water main. Since that day, excavations have uncovered fascinating remains that date back to 1st century AD. Originally a military base designed during the time of the Roman Invasion, the initial trench slowly developed into a magnificent palace. Today, only the North Wing still stands and that is now within a viewing building for visitors to discover the Roman relics.
The museum was built by the Sussex Archaeology Society, which has endeavoured to leave as many remains visible as possible. On display is the largest collection of Roman mosaics in Britain, including the famous Cupid on a Dolphin. An audio tour talks visitors through the various mosaics, along with reconstructed drawings and models from the era. Some of the mosaics are the oldest in the country, and it’s thought that there were mosaic floors in most of the 100 rooms of the palace – that’s a lot of tiles!
Stepping outside to the remains of the formal gardens, it’s easy to see just how big the palace once was. The original garden would have been landscaped with a variety of plants and even vegetables. Part of the formal gardens has been replanted, mainly using authentic plants from the Roman period. Keen gardeners will enjoy the Roman Garden Museum, with its reconstructed shed and selection of Roman tools – quite different to today’s garden rake! Interesting and educational workshops are available to help visitors discover more about specific aspects of Roman life.
Ever thought you’d be a whiz on the potter’s wheel? Well, now you can give it a go in the ceramics workshop. You can also try your hand at making your own mosaic or spinning, weaving and dying some Roman textiles.
Fishbourne Roman Palace also holds a number of special events throughout the year, including theatre performances and cooking demonstrations. Roman Army Week is a popular event, where visitors experience life as a Roman Soldier, including taking part in the marching drill, archery and spear practice.
A remarkable selection of Roman remains is waiting to be discovered at Fishbourne Roman Palace. The original, unusual mosaics cannot be seen anywhere else, so it’s your chance to see fantastic work from the bricklayers of the Roman era!