The Chedworth Romain villa mosaic – Adding some light to the Dark Ages

Last week news was released on recent research that might change the way people think 6th century Britain following the discover by archaeologists of Britain’s first known 5th-Century mosaic at a Roman villa in Gloucestershire.

Radiocarbon dating revealed a mosaic at Chedworth was designed and created in the middle of that century.  This shows sophisticated life continued within the mansion long after Britain ceased to be part of the Roman Empire.

Previously, it had been believed all Roman towns and villas were abandoned and fell into decay at the end of the 4th Century.  However, charcoal and bone at Chedworth provided radiocarbon dates that show the recently-discovered mosaic must have been created after 424 AD.

The Chedworth Roman Villa Mosaic

The Chedworth Roman Villa Mosaic – Photo by National Trust

Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the largest in the country and one of the best preserved, with 35 exposed rooms and significant features including fine mosaics.

The 5th Century is often referred to as ‘The Dark Ages’ following the Roman retreat in the preceding century.

The End of Romano Britain. Map from Wikipedia

The End of Romano Britain. Map from Wikipedia

Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the largest Roman villas known in the country and one of the best preserved, according to the National Trust.

After the end of Roman rule in Britain, the army and civil service workers stopped being paid, which in turn triggered “production decline” among the craft and service industries. The quality of the mosaic design possibly reflects this, as the National Trust said it was of “poorer quality” than those created in the 4th century

However, its existence also indicates that society did not decline as rapidly as first thought, and that “sophisticated life” carried on for longer, particularly in southwestern England where the mosaic was found.  Perhaps it is no co-incidence that the likely origins of the noble and civilised King Arthur are from SW England.

Previously it was  believed that most of the population turned to subsistence farming after the break with Rome as the country separated into various individual kingdoms.

The mosaic at Chedworth is that it is evidence for a more gradual decline. The creation of a new room and the laying of a new floor suggests wealth, and a mosaic industry continuing 50 years later than had been expected.

I’ve always been one to speak up for the lost kingdoms between the departure of the Romans and 1066AD and have never believed the Dark Ages to be as popularly imagined.  The Anglo-Saxon Exhibition is great evidence of that.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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3 Responses to The Chedworth Romain villa mosaic – Adding some light to the Dark Ages

  1. vicky Liddell says:

    absolutely fascinating! I so needed this interesting bit of history today. My sweet lil donkey went down last night and vet had to pass her on to better places. The season of Christmas has been a sad month here. between murdered mamma dog and her pups, coyote attacks and now this. I really look forward to escaping into history with you. Thanks and have a very Merry Christmas!


  2. Pingback: The Chedworth Romain villa mosaic – Adding some light to the Dark Ages – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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