Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Shillingstone Villa

Transcript, verbatim, of broadcast by BBC Radio on 30 June 2004.
Interviewed: STEVE WALLIS, SENIOR ARCHAEOLOGIST AT DORSET COUNTY COUNCIL

INTRO. A group North Dorset residents say they're concerned that an historic Roman villa and bath house will be lost forever.
The remains were discovered on site at Shillingstone bought by Wyatt Homes from Dorset County Council.
An archeological dig has the site, but it will now be filled in and built on because no-one can afford to buy back the area for restoration.
Joining us now is Steve Wallis - one of the Senior Archeologists from Dorset County Council.....

GOOD MORNING STEVE, . .

Q. AROUND TWO THOUSAND PEOPLE TURNED UP TO VIEW THE SITE AT THE WEEKEND SO IT MUST BE AN IMPRESSIVE SITE - WHY CAN'T ANY OF IT BE SAVED?
A. Nothing can be done to save it. Protecting it as a scheduled monument by English Heritage would be impossible due to cost. And the Council certainly cannot afford to buy back the land. We were pleased all the people turned up because it shows how many people are interested.

Q. SOME OF THE RESIDENTS SUGGEST A COMPROMISE OF JUST KEEPING PART OF IT AS PART OF THE ESTATE - I KNOW THAT IS A DECISION FOR THE DEVELOPERS - BUT IS IT A POSSIBILITY?
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE SITE FOR US?
A. Nothing visible at ground level - lower walls and below ground structure of a Roman villa were discovered. Initial trial work we found it was clearly Roman. Then the area was stripped of top soil - which exposed bath house and villa.

Q. WERE YOU SURPRISED AT WHAT THE DIG UNEARTHED?
A. It was surprising that it covered more ground than we expected. We were just really pleased that we were given the extra time and money to complete the job that was required which was making a full record of the site and it's details.Very interesting site so managed to get more information than we would have done.

Q. IS IT A RARE SITE?
A. No these sites are not particularly rare - there are plenty of others for people to see. Fully recorded now and everything been done. This is not a conflict situation. Developers and Council have been very fair and given the amount of time required to finish the job. Plenty of others to see.

[pw notes: in June the Association for Roman Archaeology contributed 300 GBP to part-fund the rescue and effort to save this site. Bryn Walters, ARA Director, is making a statement which will shortly be published here and also on the ARA website.]

Thank you BBC Southampton for recording this interview and raising public and international awareness of this issue. See initial June blog report - > here.

2 Comments:

At 8 July 2004 at 07:39, Blogger modusoperandi said...

Here is our ARA Director's Statement re events at Shillingstone:
"As mentioned earlier in these pages, extensive Roman structures have been revealed at Shillingstone in Dorset.
A well preserved suite of Roman baths with externally plastered walls still stands (in the first week of July 2004) a full two feet above the Roman yard surface. This was found at the north end of a significant aisled building. A web-friendly, simplified, diagram of the site is in preparation (July 8-9).
The Association for Roman Archaeology made a grant (in June 2004) toward the examination and possible rescue of this site. ARA trustees have suggested that the buildings uncovered in June form only one side of a much more extensive Roman villa.
This site is of great importance for studies of Roman civilization in Britain as it lies at the very centre of a group of evidently rich Dorset villas. It's location in the Stour valley, very close to the river, suggests a high status complex.
The owners of these wealthy Roman estates held great power in late Roman Britain and dictated the history and economics of the period.
The same area has become recognised for exceptionally fine art works which include Christian images. This shows that the land-owning aristocracy in Roman Dorset were active and influential in early Christianity in this county."

Bryn Walters, ARA Director, July 8, 2004.

 
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