Discovered in 1942, this courtyard Roman villa was found purely by chance by a local farmer. Excavated over the next 30 years and more recently by Time Team, the villa and its artefacts are on display in a small but comprehensive museum in the small village of Rockbourne, not far from Downton and Salisbury.

A formal garden with a statue and hedges
The Roman Garden at Rockbourne Roman Villa

Just outside the New Forest and buried in deepest, darkest rural Hampshire is the tiny village of Rockbourne, a place of thatched cottages, woods and farmland. Just outside the village and undercover of woodland, a small track leads off a narrow country lane and into a large grassy car park. There are no formalities here, you plonk your car on the grass and wander into the small museum, named after A.T. Morley-Hewitt, author and archaeologist who excavated the site over the course of 30 years.

A drawing of the Rockbourne Roman villa
An artists impression of the villa in its heyday, on display at the museum

Excavations revealed that Rockbourne started life in the late Iron Age as a simple timber roundhouse with a chalk floor. In use as a farm before the Roman invasion of 43AD, the Romans often built on top of existing sites and in this case built three rooms directly on top of the original, with outbuildings added over the years.

Around 150AD the original house was demolished and a larger one built (known as the West House) with a bath suite of a plunge pool and hot room. About 200AD a large extension was built as well as a separate bath suite, hypocausts and mosaic flooring. In the 4th century it was again re-modelled and a well was dug, but by the early 5th century there are indications that attempts were made to repair the increasingly crumbling building with signs of collapsed roofing, broken mosaics and postholes.