The Roman Town House Project
Despite regular maintenance the covering building put over the west range of the Roman Town House in the 1990s is showing its age. The steel frame of the building is rusty in places and paint is flaking, moss is growing on the roof and some of the stone tiles are breaking up. Inside the building, mosaics and other delicate features need some extra care, the lighting is outdated and not sustainable, and mortar applied to the underside of the roof tiles (called torching) is falling off in chunks - this is the main reason why the public are not allowed into the building at present.
Access and interpretation
Visiting the site involves a long journey and some people tell us that they are put off visiting by the official-looking location in the grounds of County Hall. On-site interpretation is out-dated and no longer as accessible as we would wish. We will be 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. We are also 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. View the Roman Town House landscape design plan and read our Design and Access Statement for the project.
Project partners and funding
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.
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.
The start of the project
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.
The main phase of works has now started with the demolition of a garage block at the back of County Hall near the Town House by Westmade Ltd and their subcontractor Direct Demolition. This work will allow the relocation of car parking spaces that will be lost when the new access to the Town House is constructed, and there will be other works to make this area more attractive to the eye and for wildlife
Keep an eye on this page for regular updates on the project.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org