The Roman Town House sits in the grounds of County Hall in Dorchester. The area is known as Colliton Park because from the 17th century it formed the grounds of Colliton House. Colliton Park lies in the north-west corner of the Roman town known as Durnovaria.
Roman Town house discovery
In the 1930s Dorset County Council bought Colliton Park to build a new County Hall. In an early example of rescue archaeology, a team from the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society excavated in advance of development. They found the remains of at least 8 buildings dating from the Roman period, of which the building that became known as the Roman Town House was the best example.
Dorset County Council decided to keep the Roman Town House on permanent display. In the 1990s a cover building, designed in the style of the Roman original, was constructed over one range of the house, and further improvements were made about 10 years later.
The Roman Town house in the Roman period
The Roman Town House dates from quite late in the Roman period. The earliest part was built in the later part of the third century AD, with considerable expansion during the fourth century. The occupants may have controlled industrial activity taking place in this part of Roman Dorchester, and seemed keen to show off their wealth in the adornment of their home.
As Roman control of Britain declined, towns such as Durnovaria were gradually abandoned, and this is reflected in our Roman Town House, where parts of the complex went out of use, with the building probably being abandoned in the fifth century.
The Roman Town House today
Dorset County Council ceased to exist at Local Government Reorganisation in April 2019. The Roman Town House site is now owned by Dorset Council, and we are working on a new project to improve the setting and interpretation of the Roman Town House.