The remains of a previously unknown Roman villa have been discovered during building works in Warwick.
The work on has been undertaken as part of ‘Project One Campus’, which sees King’s High School relocating from the town centre to the main Warwick Independent Schools Foundation site on Banbury Road.
Wall foundations for a large aisled structure the size of a medieval church have been uncovered by Warwickshire County Council’s team of archaeologists, who have been on site since October, at the behest of Warwick Independent Schools Foundation.
Archaeology Warwickshire’s Principal Archaeologist, Stuart Palmer, said: “The building probably forms a component of a large villa estate, which must have spread along the banks of the Avon and been connected to the Roman road system.
“Early indications suggest it developed in the 2nd Century AD and probably went out of use in the 4th Century.
“This new discovery will put Roman Warwick firmly on the map.”
Constructed of local sandstone, over 28m long by 14.5m wide, the villa would have been the largest building ever seen in the region.
Corn drying ovens, both inside and outside the structure, attest to an agricultural function, although internal wall divisions at the opposite end of the building probably indicate a suite of domestic rooms.
Caroline Rann, who has been leading the winter long excavation, said: “Very rarely do archaeologists discover a new villa, and this fantastic building could never have been predicted.
“Thanks to the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation and their construction team, Speller Metcalfe, who have gone out of their way to assist us, we can now start to build a better picture of Roman Warwick.”
Simon Jones, Secretary for Warwick Independent Schools Foundation, said: “This is an exciting find and an invaluable experience for the schools, with pupils and staff having had opportunities to see the excavations at first hand.
“The County Archaeologist’s team have been only too happy to share their enthusiasm and worked with us to ensure the find has not had undue impact on POC progress.
“The find will become part of the history of the new school building and of the Foundation as a whole and will, we hope, inspire budding archaeologists for generations to come.”
The archaeological work is a requirement of planning permission and in accordance with a Written Scheme of Investigation approved in advance by the planning authority.
Stuart Palmer added: “We have maintained close contact with the district’s archaeological advisor throughout the project and each stage of excavation has been monitored and signed off before moving on to the next, and work has now been able to proceed on Project One Campus.”
The remains of the building will be preserved under the new Campus and plans are being developed to bring the results of the work to a wider audience in the forms of displays and educational materials, as well as a formal archaeological report.
Cllr Jeff Clarke, Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for transport and the environment, said: “We are very proud of the work done by the Archaeology Warwickshire team on this excavation in Warwick.
“The team are experts in so many aspects of archaeological history and are always willing and able to use that expertise to assist on a wide variety of fascinating projects.
“This latest find in Warwick certainly adds to the rich tapestry of Warwickshire’s History which all contributes to the county being a fantastic place to live and visit.”