From 2 Hillside we get a wonderful view of Woodchester across the Nailsworth valley. And from the ancient village of Woodchester — dating back to the Roman occupation of the fourth century — there is an equally wonderful view of 2 Hillside.
Today Woodchester is dominated by the magnificent spire of St Mary’s. But 1700+ years ago the settlement would have focused around the giant Roman villa, now buried beneath the “Old Churchyard” used in the 1700 and 1800s.
The square of sunken grass clearly marks where the largest and finest Orpheus Roman pavement yet found in Northern Europe still lies beneath the soil, 47-foot square.
The villa had at least 64 rooms according to the renowned barrister, painter and archeologist Samuel Lysons who excavated the site over the four years after 1793. He found 13 mosaics which he carefully painted. The Great Pavement mosaic was last opened to view in 1973, when more than 140,000 came from all over the world to Woodchester.
Today the 200-year-old tombs of locals are easier to view, including a large number
for young children. The earliest we found was dated 1746. On another it is recorded that Richard Cambridge Esq died on 17 February 1756 aged 73. His wife, Mary, died five years later aged 72.
2 Hillside was built some time after 1730, and certainly occupied in the 1750s. The Old Churchyard would have been contemporary.
Roman Woodchester was strategically placed mid-way between the administrative centre at Corinium, now Cirencester, and the army headquarters at Glevum, now Gloucester, as well as close to the spa Aqua Sulis, Bath. The villa is likely to have been the home of the local Governor General.
The site was settled in the sixth century by Saxons, who also used the grounds as a burial site.
- The reproduction of Samuel Lysons painting of the Great Pavement and historical details can all be found in the pamphlet Roman Woodchester: Its villa and mosaic by the Reverend John Cull and available from St Mary’s price £2.50.