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Last Updated: Friday, 16 July, 2004, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Roman villa found at new estate
Archeologists have unearthed a huge Roman villa complex beneath a new housing estate in Swindon.

The remains, found at Groundwell Ridge, are being celebrated as "one of the most important Roman sites in England" by English Heritage.

Interest in the 12-hectare site was sparked in 1996 when builders using a bulldozer 'stumbled on' a Roman wall.

Excavation work has uncovered a villa complete with hot and cold baths, gymnasium, stables and outbuildings.

Other objects found during digs there include a silver bowl, glassware, pottery, coins, a jet brooch and a lead figurine, possibly of the goddess Minerva.

Country house

Experts believe people lived at the villa for 250 to 300 years until the fall of the Roman Empire.

Following a campaign by local residents the site has been bought by Swindon Borough Council and English Heritage.

The complex, nestled amid newly-built houses, has now been saved from future development.

English Heritage chief archaeologist David Miles said: "What we have here is a large, rich, country house.

"The people would have been living in relative comfort and luxury in conditions you wouldn't really see again until the 19th Century."

As part of National Archaeology Days, visitors will be able to tour the site this Saturday and Sunday before it is covered up again to prevent damage caused by the elements.

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