Simanaitis Says

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THE ROMAN EMPIRE, 27 BC – 395 AD, extended as far as the British Isles. And, as recently as last week, a huge Roman villa was discovered in Tisbury, Wiltshire, about 100 miles southwest of central London.


Amazing though this discovery is, it’s just other evidence of the thriving Roman presence in Britain almost two millennia ago. In fact, my own modest Britannia collection contains another Roman artifact, thanks to the divining skills of Betty Walker, wife of Grand Prix privateer Rob Walker.


These tiles, part of a Roman mosaic, led to the significant historical find in Wiltshire, England. This and other images from The Telegraph, April 17, 2016.

Luke Irwin was doing some home improvement, converting a barn into a game room. When laying electric cable, builders encountered pieces of tile, part of a Roman mosaic, just 18 inches below the surface. Nearby was a mosaic in remarkably good condition.


A Roman mosaic, part of the Tisbury find. Image from the Wiltshire Archaeology Service.

Further probing revealed remnants of a villa, its grounds extending more than 100 yds. in length and width. It’s conjectured the villa had 20 to 25 rooms on its ground floor alone, with perhaps two more stories. Portions of walls have survived, some 5 ft. in height.


Deverill and two of its Deverill Villa excavations. Tisbury has another historic site nearby: This village is 15 miles southwest of Stonehenge.

Luke Irwin is no stranger to historic architecture. His family’s home, Deverill, dates from the 17th century. The Roman find, now known as Deverill Villa, was built between 175 AD and 220 AD. There are also signs of its repeated remodeling up into the mid-4th century.


An artist’s rendering of Deverill Villa, named after Luke Irwin’s 17th-century house.

Among the artifacts discovered were a perfectly preserved Roman well, underfloor heating pipes and a stone coffin for a Roman child. More recently, the stone box has been used as a flower pot for geraniums.


The coin was one of many unearthed at Deverill Villa. This stone box, more recently used as a flower pot, was actually a child’s coffin.

A renowned discovery of Roman coins was the Frome Hoard, found in 2010 by metal detector outsider Frome, Somerset, about 115 miles west of London. Frome is the principal town near Nunney, home of Rob and Betty Walker.


The Frome Hoard consists of 52,503 Roman coins unearthed in a ceramic pot. The largest of such finds, the coins were from the reign of Carausius, who ruled Britain from 286 to 293.


The Frome Hoard at the Museum of Somerset. Image by Rodw.

Once when I was visiting Rob and Betty at Nunney Court, she taught me the use of a divining rod to find buried coins. Betty later gifted me with one, similar to the Deverill coin, found in a Nunney Court field.

Finds such as these make history come alive, don’t they? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016


  1. Frank Barrett
    April 20, 2016

    For a history of the Romans and others in the Salisbury area, I recommend the book Sarum.

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