Culture, Dorchester, Latest News | Posted: Tuesday, June 9th, 2020 at 1:26 pm | return to news

Dorchester’s Roman Town House undergoes £248,000 improvement works

Thanks to a £248,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, work has been taking place at Dorchester’s Roman Town House, the earliest part of which was built in the third century AD. And in the future you could become involved with this, the only house of its kind completely on display to visitors in Britain.

Work continues on Dorchester’s Roman Town House thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund
Work continues on Dorchester’s Roman Town House thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using social distancing and appropriate safety precautions, construction company Westmade Ltd, have been working with Dorset Council officers and archaeologists from Context One Heritage and Archaeology on the construction of a new easy-access route to the Town House, which is next to County Hall.

They have carefully excavated a new ramp access leading up from the entrance. It is cut into an earth bank that formed part of Dorchester’s Roman defences containing layers of chalk, clay and soil built up in Roman times.

The archaeologists have also re-opened the former entrance to the site that had been blocked up since County Hall was built in the 1930s. This included the removal of a surprisingly thick layer of concrete.

A new pathway will connect existing pathways at the site. Surfacing will begin in the next few weeks and the narrow area around the back has been dug out to provide more space.

New fencing hides a bin store and garage and a new parking area has been completed. A planting plan for the site is being drawn up by the council’s landscape architect and senior ecologist, working with the council’s archaeologist.

Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, Councillor Ray Bryan said, “We’re looking forward to the completion of the work and the time when young and old can visit the site to gain a fascinating insight into the history of Roman Britain”.

Multi-tiered stone-effect amphitheatre style seating to accommodate different abilities will be installed for visitors, school groups and theatre productions.

Smith and Jones Design Consultants of Bristol have been appointed to provide a new interpretation scheme for the site.

In future weeks, work will start on the inside of the house to make it safe for visitors to access the house and to clean the ancient mosaics. The Roman coffins that are not originally part of the Roman Town House site will be moved to the top of the site using the expertise of Kellands conservators.

Once the project works are complete, the council will be looking for people to volunteer to help in a number of ways: interpret the site for visitors; do basic maintenance and cleaning inside the house; monitor the condition of this special site, and guide visitors inside the building

If you want to know more about the project or get involved, contact Bridget Betts, environmental advice manager at bridget.betts@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk.

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