Peterborough’s past rewritten by Roman villa discovery

The Roman remains of a bath house at the Itter Crescent site. Photo supplied
The Roman remains of a bath house at the Itter Crescent site. Photo supplied
Have your say

PETERBOROUGH’S history books are set to be rewritten after a stunning Roman villa was found by archaeologists in Itter Cresent.

The villa was the home of Peterborough’s rich and famous 2,000 years ago but remained hidden for centuries and was until recently buried under potatoes and carrots at an allotment site in Itter Cresent, Walton.

The villa, which was the site of a large farm, was dicovered when developers planned to build homes on the site.

Now city historians are having to re-examine everything they thought they knew about the city as it looked 2,000 years ago.

Dr Rebecca Casa Hatton, Peterborough City Council archaeologist, said the find had literally re-written the history books.

She said: “Even allowing for damage caused by the expansion of the town, evidence for Roman occupation in Peterborough is scanty, almost giving the impression that the important people passed through but did not want to stay.

“By contrast, the site at Itter Crescent indicates that some 2,000 years ago members of the higher classes of Roman society came, stayed and made a statement of wealth and status at this very location.”

Archeologists were able to tell that the historic villa was used by wealthy Romans because of the facilities discovered.

Dr James Drummond-Murray, project manager for Oxford Archaeology who carried out the dig, said: “The discovery was made in the summer, when Bellway Homes commissioned us to carry out a study there. The team, led by Alexandra Pickstone, was on site until Christmas excavating the site.

“Underneath the villa was an Iron age settlement, dating back to 100BC. It is possible that the Roman villa was built for an Iron Age chief.

“The villa was taken apart by us while we got down to the Iron Age site, so there is nothing left on the site now.

“This discovery allows us to look at the possible locations of roads and communication networks in the area at the time.”

Peter Lee, chairman of the Peterborough Civic Society, said: “This is important for us as there are not many Roman sites in the city and will show the importance of Peterborough to the Romans.”

The artefacts will now be analysed, before being put on display at Peterborough Museum.

A public display of the finds will also be held at the Paston and Gunthorpe Community Centre on January 28 between 12pm and 3pm.

More about the site

THE FIND includes remains of a substantial, two-floor courtyard limestone villa with rooms floored with mosaic on the sides of a cobbled courtyard.

Its residents enjoyed bathing in a hot and sauna-like bath, as indicated by the remains of the sweating chambers and under-floor heating system.

A range of stone-built buildings was located to the north. Further buildings, also decorated with painted wall plaster, lie to the east and a tile kiln in a small stone structure is to the west.