First in my Feature Blog we take another trip to my local museum – Andover Museum and Museum of the Iron Age.
The Fullerton Mosaic
The mosaic above was the centre piece of the main room a Romano-British Villa, or country farmhouse. The house only lasted for about a generation, but parts of it survived for around 1500 years until it was redisovered in the the 19th century.
The mosaic was first mentioned in 1872. The Mars mosaic was removed a few years later by the landowner, Sir William Cory, and laid in the entrance hall of his nearby manor house. It then spent nearly 50 years under a carpety, until plans to acquire were first mentioned in 2007.
With help of grants from local buisnesses and donors, and from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the mosaic was lifted by specialists in 2008. After appropriate conservatiWon work was carried out it was put in place Andover Museum and Museum of the Iron Age 2009.
The Mosaic and Villa in Context
When Britain was part of the Roman Empire, from the 1st mid first century AD and into the early 5th, there were Villas and vast farming estates crated all over. This was particulary true of the Roman crossroads at East Anton, on the north-eastern side of Andover, which is on a chalk download, perefect for the growing of cereals (and the road for trade), but the Villa was situated on the river that made it perfect for a mill to process rhe crops.
This seems to have been a sucessful buisness for a while, because around the year 360AD but the owners built a luxurious, brand new house facing the river. They decorated it with brightly coloured walls, and colourful mosaics. Most of these had geometric patterns, but the main room was dominated by the Mars mosaic. Despite his war like depiction, the Fullerton Mars is probably a protector of agriculture. The smaller male figures, or styrs, represen untamed nature.
At the time the mosaic was being created, Rome’s influence in Britain was nearing its end. In just twenty years, around the year 380AD, the mill appears to stop working and in a few deccades the site was abandoned, as the Roman Empire started to totter… and eventually fall.
- The Roman Villa had an Iron Age predecessor, in the form of an enclosure. Small ‘Celtic Fields’ have been found all over the area.
- The orginal location of the site has been excavated three times since the initial discovery. First when the floor was lifted, then in the 1960s and then in 2000 and 2001 by Barry Cunliffe as part of the Danebury Envrions Roman Programme.
- The canal (mill leat) ran for more than 140m, but may have been twice that in the length, but the Andover Canal in 1794 and by the Andover to Southampton Railway in 1865.
- Two mills were found at the site, one repralacing the others. The large number of coins found in the mill pond belonging to the second mill suggests that these deliberately placed, potentially as a religious offering.
The Mosaic is on display at Andover Museum and Museum of the Iron Age, a free entry museum operated by the Hampshire Cultural Trust. Open 10:00 – 17:00 Tuesday-Friday, and Saturday 10:00-16:00.