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Harborough Museum

Drayton Villa Mosaic

Drayton Villa Mosaic

From a lavish Roman home, and working farm.

When the Romans came to Britain in AD 43 they found a thriving agricultural landscape. To control and administer this land they built Roman style villas. The Drayton villa is just one example of these busy and luxurious farms.

The Drayton Villa, discovered near present day Drayton on a hillside above the River Welland, was a large, busy farm. It was also a lavish family home. This interesting mosaic, dating to the mid-2nd century AD hints at some of this luxury. Mosaics, baths and large rooms with under-floor heating all suggest a wealthy Romanised family once lived here.

Mosaic floors were very detailed and complicated and were made up of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of tiny coloured stones and gems called tesserae, and each piece was stuck to the floor with mortar, a type of cement. Mosaics showed pictures of Roman history, religion and everyday Roman life and would often feature geometric designs.  Common mosaic themes included animals, gladiators in battle, romantic images and scenes from both mythology and astronomy.

Photograph of a mosaic, which has evidence of a later repair.
Part of the Drayton Villa mosaic, which is on display in the Hallaton Treasure gallery at Harborough Museum. It shows geometric designs.

Mosaics found in the city of Pompeii, an ancient city in southern Italy, are some of the best in the world. Many Roman mosaics in Pompeii said “Beware of the Dog” in Latin. This was because Romans liked to keep dogs as companions and pets – and so this message was placed in the mosaic design and usually at an entrance to a building.

In the centre of the mosaic, where decades of passing feet wore down the tiny pieces of coloured stone and tile, you can see late 4th century AD repairs. It is likely that these crude repairs reflect the declining fortunes of the villa and indeed by AD 400 the villa was abandoned.

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