Historic discovery that will put Banbury on the map

A Banbury detectorist and historian has uncovered the remains of one of the largest Roman villas ever discovered in Britain.

Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 11:41 am
Updated Monday, 3rd September 2018, 12:15 pm

The 85m by 85m villa’s foundations lie beneath a crop in a field a stone’s throw from Broughton Castle on one of the estate’s farms.

The exciting find was confirmed as a magnificent example of a large courtyard villa to rival any in the country.

A secret trial dig by Oxford Archeology – to which the Banbury Guardian was invited this spring – found a wealth of artefacts that promise a trove of antiquities if the villa were to be fully unearthed.

Villa Keith Westcott during the trial dig NNL-180821-100325001

“We only uncovered one per cent of the site so the possibilities are huge,” said the detectorist, Keith Westcott.

Martin Fiennes of Broughton Castle has been central to the operation and took part in the dig.

“The next step will be for me to reach out to various universities, starting with Oxford, to see if they are interested in leading a project to do a full excavation over a period of years,” he said.

“Obviously we would like someone to do it who can involve the local community as much as possible as well as comprehensively recording the site.

Villa Martin Fiennes with Lord and Lady Saye and Sele NNL-180821-100834001

“If no-one wants to do it, then it stays happily undisturbed for another 50 or 100 years until someone comes up with the money and interest.”

The opportunity this find offers is a large villa, unencumbered by any nearby buildings or roads, that could become an important visitor and educational centre.

The site’s exact location remains confidential.

The five trial trenches were re-covered after two weeks and a crop now grows above them.

Magnotometry scans showed the outline of the terraced villa is not that much smaller than Buckingham Palace. To one side are the walls of a large, aisled hall, most likely to have held the most precious of commodities – grain.

For a first person account from the detectorist who discovered the villa click here.

For the decades long history that led to the Broughton discovery click here.

To view some of the historic artefacts found at the site click here.