Posted 25 April 2011 by Andrew Gardner
I wrote in my last blog how we create a positive visitor experience here in Sussex, so we give our visitors every reason to want to return again, either to sample something new or to revisit many old favourite places of interest. In addition I hope we are achieving our own objective at Amberley House Cottage Holidays by successfully offering fine self catering holiday accommodation from quaint downland cottages to town and coastal properties where guests want to return again and again following a comfortable stay!
In that blog I made mention to Bignor Roman Villa in West Sussex, one of the 55 major visitor attractions that we have here. Since this year marks the 200th anniversary of its discovery, it is an opportune time to expand a little on the importance of this Roman building. The villa was discovered by George Tupper a farmer whose plough hit a large stone likely to have been a water basin in what is now the Ganymede Room, the name of the mosaic found nearby. The Villa was excavated by John Hawkins a nearby resident of Bignor Park and Samual Lysons, a barrister, antiquary and keeper of records in the Tower of London who had a keen interest in Roman antiquities. The rest - as they almost say - is Roman history.
The villa was opened to the public in October 1814 and had nearly a thousand entries in the visitors' book in the first nine months, a phenomenal number given the difficuties of travelling in those days. Protective buildings were erected over several of the mosaics and further excavations were undertaken. The most recent was by Thomas Tupper, whose family still owns the site in the mid 1970's. He was assisted by Dr Margaret Rule who later oversaw the project to raise the Tudor warship Mary Rose in Portsmouth Harbour. Today the farm still operates around Bignor Roman Villa and remains in the same family name run by Thomas's son William.
Bignor Roman Villa is set directly in the centre of the South Downs National Park. The South Downs Way runs along the ridge above Bignor and intersects with Stane Street, the old Roman road from London to Chichester. The setting is spectacular and on a sunny day a real delight.
The site is well known for its high quality mosaic floors some of which are the most complete and intricate in the country and these include the Venus and Cupid Gladiators. The villa has an impressive corridor which includes the longest mosaic, a Greek-key-pattern in the country. The collection of artefacts give an insight into the occupation and development over the years where it is today thought that the villa expanded and changed during the fourth century to suit the needs of a succession of owners. A little like how we change and update our own homes today!
Bignor Roman Villa is open seven days a week until 31 October 2011.