Fishbourne Roman Palace. Where is Chichester?. Modern-day Chichester, known in Roman times as Noviomagus, is located in southern England in West Sussex. Chichester. Where is Fishbourne?.
Modern-day Chichester, known in Roman times as Noviomagus, is located in southern England in West Sussex.
The village of Fishbourne, where the remains of a vast palace have been discovered, is located 2 miles west of Chichester. Approximately 2000 people lived in the village in the year 2001.
The earliest remains at Fishbourne
date back to the Claudian invasion
of Britain in 43 AD.
-Discovery of a granary, helmets, and weapon shards indicate the presence of soldiers in the area.
-These soldiers might have belonged to the 2nd Legion, which had attacked the Durotriges tribe under the leadership of the general Vespasian.
-Because a harbor was located nearby, archaeologists believe that Fishbourne was first used as a supply base and military port for the invading Roman armies.
After the Roman soldiers moved inland, a number of physical improvements were made to the site:
-roads were resurfaced - drainage improved
-a harbor was developed
-in the late 60s AD, a villa with its own bath complex was constructed
-Around 75 AD, 10 acres of land was clear and landscaped.
-Over the next few years, a vast number of builders and craftsmen lived on the site as they built the palace.
-Craftsmen were brought in from all over the empire, including: mosaic makers plasterers marble workers painters carpenters ironsmiths hydraulic engineers (for building fountains)
-Although the builders tried to find as many materials as possible from local sources, other supplies were imported from all over the empire.
No one is absolutely sure why the palace was rebuilt on such a massive scale, or who lived in it.
Since the client king Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus was active in the local area, it is possible that he lived in the palace.
According to one theory, Vespasian might have wanted to honor Cogidubnus’ loyalty during the earlier Roman invasion and thus rewarded him with his monumental palace.
The originial palace covered 5.6 acres, contained more than 100
rooms (most with mosaic floors) and was as large as the great
imperial palaces on the Palatine Hill in Rome.
-It occupied as much land as Buckingham Palace currently does
The north wing contained suites of rooms for guests to enjoy when they visited
The west wing was built on a platform 5 feet higher than the rest of the palace. In the center was the reception hall; other rooms in this wing were used as offices.
Visitors entered the palace through the entrance hall in the east wing. The east wing also contained rooms for less important guests.
The southern wing most likely contained a suite of rooms for Cogidubnus and his family.
The bathhouse in the south east corner was part of the original villa
-The open area between the 4 wings was 100 by 80 yards (more than a football field).
-This area was laid out as a formal garden (think of the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg), with short grass, box hedges, fruit trees, climbing plants, and all kinds of flowers.
-Underground pipes brought water to fountains, and small statues were placed throughout the garden.
-The gardens were arranged in the most fashionable Italian style.
-Between 100 and 280 AD, numerous renovations (both major and minor) were made to the palace and the grounds. By the end of the 3rd century little of the palace would have been recognizable to those who knew Cogidubnus.
-We are not sure who lived in the palace during these centuries.
-Archaeological evidence indicates that major renovations were underway when a huge fire broke out and destroyed the entire building in 280 AD. The palace was not rebuilt.
-In the late 4th or 5th century bodies were being buried in the rubble.
-By the Saxon period all that remained was a single slope of land.
-In the 1800s and early 1900s, mosaics and other remains were discovered at the site, but no one realized their full significance.
-The palace itself was discovered in 1960, when workers digging a trench for a water-main pipe began to unearth mosaics.
-Major excavations were carried out between 1961-1969; other excavations have taken place as warranted by new discoveries.
-The museum was opened to the public in 1968.
The palace located ½ mile from the Fishbourne Railway Station
-Once you leave the station, you walk past some houses and the Fishbourne C.E. Primary School
Then you arrive at the museum
Only the north wing has been well excavated. Half of the garden area has been restored, as the other half lies buried under modern houses and gardens. The southern wing is currently covered by the A259 road, which runs from Folkestone to Emsworth.
Building covering north wing
Houses where south wing was
Today the north wing remains (which contained suits of rooms for important guests) are housed under a large cover building. The mosaics and hypocaust systems have been excavated and visitors can walk around the wing to better explore these remains.
-Over 360,000 tesserae make up the Cupid and a Dolphin mosaic
-The red tesserae are red pottery shards imported from Gaul
In the north wing, visitors can see this hypocaust (sub-floor heating system) that was under construction when the building burned down in the late 200s AD
Several skeletons, dating
to the late 3rd century AD
(much later than King
Cogidubnus) have been
discovered in the north
where the reception hall would have been
Today the south wing (which probably contained quarters for the King and his family) lies buried beneath a neighborhood and a motorway (highway)
-Steps to the reception hall. On the other side of the hedges on the left is the modern houses.