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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice.

The Roman Town House Project

Read the latest news about the Roman Town House Project

April 2021 and we are delighted to say that the site has re-opened to visitors. There is still some work to do.

What is being done

In 2019 planning permissions for the project works were obtained from the Local Planning Authority, and Scheduled Monument Consent obtained through Historic England. The project started in November 2019 with the felling of large trees on the slope on the west side of the Roman Town House. This work was timed to avoid impact on hibernating animals and nesting birds, and has been offset by biodiversity improvements on the site and elsewhere.

We have:

  • started the main phase of works by demolishing a garage block at the back of County Hall to allow the relocation of car parking spaces lost when the new access was created
  • created the new access by opening up a blocked gateway in West Walks with new pathways giving improved wheelchair access around the site
  • involved archaeologists who monitored the opening up of the blocked gateway and groundworks around the site
  • repaired and cleaned the mosaics, repaired and painted the covering building and installed new lighting
  • created a new teaching and events space with amphitheatre-style seating
  • installed new interpretation boards with more detailed information about each room and put on the windows of the cover building

And finally, landscaping around the site is taking shape with plants selected for biodiversity benefit. 

Why the work is being done

Essential works to the mosaics and covering building

Despite regular maintenance the covering building put over the west range of the Roman Town House in the 1990s was showing its age:

  • the steel frame of the building was rusty in places, with flaking paint
  • inside the building, mosaics and other delicate features need some extra care, and the lighting was outdated and not sustainable
  • moss was growing on the roof, some of the stone tiles were breaking up, and mortar applied to the underside of the roof tiles (called torching) is falling off in chunks

All of these are the main reasons why the public is not allowed into the building at present. 

Access and interpretation for the Town House

We want to create a more welcoming entry point for visitors, as people have told us that they have been put off visiting by the official-looking location in the grounds of County Hall. On-site interpretation had become out-dated and was no longer as accessible as we would wish.

The project involves opening up a blocked gateway and new paths leading to the site, a new interpretation scheme, with new landscaping and planting around the site. 

View the Roman Town House landscape design plan and read our Design and Access Statement for the project.

We're working with the Dorset County Museum to ensure that booking the Roman Town House for events and tours is possible and that schools will be able to book to use the site through different education programmes.

We're also working with The Arts Development Company on a range of activities in the second year of the two-year project, and these will be advertised through a range of media.

Project partners and funding for the Roman Town House

Dorset Council has worked with partner organisations to create a project to address these and other issues and open up the site to a wider range of people. There have been discussions with Dorchester Town Council, Historic England, the Planning Officer, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Dorset Council's Natural Environment Team. Local people and heritage groups, visitors, and the staff at County Hall gave us their views. This gave us a well thought through and fully supported project. 

Thank you

Most of the funding for the project is coming from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thank you to our project partners and also to the Fine Family Foundation and the Dorchester Joint Heritage Committee for providing additional funding. 

HLF logo

 

Keep an eye on this page for regular updates on the project.

Get involved with the Roman Town House

Once the project works are complete, we are looking for people to volunteer to help us:

  • interpret the site for visitors;
  • do basic maintenance and cleaning inside the house;
  • monitor the condition of this special site, and
  • guide visitors inside the building

If you want to know more about volunteering at the Roman Town House

Please contact Bridget Betts, Environmental Advice Manager, Dorset Council at bridget.betts@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

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