Times report of 3rd March 1997
Police archaeology team makes arresting discovery at Swindon
BY NORMAN HAMMOND, ARCHAEOLOGY CORRESPONDENT
A WILTSHIRE police archaeology team has found remains of a surprisingly Mediterranean Roman villa just south of Swindon. The closest parallels are at Pompeii, a degree of urban sophistication “extremely unusual for a British rural site”, according to Bryn Walters, of the Association for Roman Archaeology.
The site, in the valley of the River Og, is being kept secret until it can be made secure from metal detectorists, the local Ogbourne Times reports. Finds have included a large double-handled jar, probably for holding beer, and the finely carved bone handle of a folding razor. The villa “appears to be very like an Italic atrium house of the type found at Pompeii”, Mr Walters told the Ogbourne Times.
A suite of baths has been found, with the hypocaust underfloor heating system and stoking area set into the slope and built over what seems to be an earlier bathhouse. Kitchens dating from the 4th century have also been uncovered, together with a large hall originally paved with flagstones, and what appears to be part of an internal semi-roofed court,
Parch marks in the fields have revealed what are believed to be the footings of garden pergolas leading down to the Og. The excavators believe that the broad, straight section of the now-dry Og which borders the site was turned into a canal and acted as a river port some 500ft above sea level. An iron object is thought to be a boatman’s hook, to launch and berth shallow-draught boats at a landing stage.
The suggestion that the Og Valley was a gathering point for boats and barges which then sailed south five miles to the confluence with the River Kennet at the Roman site of Cunetio, just east of Marlborough, will be controversial: the chalkland streams are not generally thought to have been navigable to that extent in Roman times.