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About the house

The Roman Town House was discovered, almost by chance, in 1937 during an archaeological dig.

Discovery

The former Dorset County Council had bought land at Colliton Park to build a new County Hall. The team from the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society found the remains of at least eight buildings, of which the Town House was the most important.

Imagining what life was like

Further work on the site was disturbed by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, but more recent work on the buildings and mosaics has meant we can write the story of the building and imagine more about the people who could have lived here.

The earliest part of the Town House dates from the first part of fourth century. The building was expanded and adorned with fine mosaics around AD350. It was probably home to a local Romano-British family whose ancestors had adopted the Roman way of life some 300 years earlier. They may also have owned a farm or villa nearby, and were most likely involved in the governing council of Durnovaria (Dorchester). 

As the period of Roman influence in Britain came to an end at the beginning of the fifth century the changes in lifestyle led to a reduction in the size of the house.

How many of these facts will you remember?

  • the Romans bathed either in public bath houses or in bath houses built in the homes of rich friends or colleagues
  • Dorchester was known to the Romans as "Durnovaria"
  • the Town House was built in the fourth century AD
  • many relics found are on show at the Dorset County Museum
  • the Town House is available to see all year round, free of charge!
  • the Town House is in the grounds of the County Hall, very close to the town centre
  • the Roman Town House was discovered as a result of excavations during the 1930's
  • parts of the house remain as stone walls, identifying the size and number of rooms that made up the original building
  • parts of the house have been enclosed by a glass wall structure, protecting the amazing decorative mosaics
  • events on the Roman Town House site have included plays, fire performances, re-enactments of Roman life, art installations and music

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