North Leigh Roman Villa

Conservation at North Leigh

Over the next year we will be carrying out a major conservation project at North Leigh Roman Villa in Oxfordshire. One of the larger villas of Roman Britain, the site is noted for an early 4th-century mosaic floor which was lifted and re-laid in 1929. Works on the site will include a new roof for the building that covers this outstanding mosaic floor, repairs to the cottage – a building once the residence of the site’s custodian – and conservation of the ruins themselves.

The Mosaic Building and Custodian’s Cottage

The first stage of works on the site will include installing a new roof on the Mosaic Building and repairs to the Custodian’s Cottage. When parts of the Roman villa were first uncovered (1813–16), two of the mosaics disappeared at the hands of souvenir hunters. To protect the remaining mosaic, a thatched building was built by the landowner, the Duke of Marlborough of the Blenheim Estate.

In the early 20th century the building was modified with a corrugated iron roof. This has since deteriorated, and we are now renewing the roof to ensure the conservation of the important mosaic.

The site also contains a small cottage, formerly used by a custodian. It is not known when this cottage was built but it may date from around the same time as the Mosaic Building. The Custodian’s Cottage will be given a makeover and become a store and shelter for our team of hard-working volunteers.

Conserving the Villa Ruins

The second phase of the works at North Leigh will involve the conservation of the Roman ruins, which have become damaged by the effects of the weather, particularly frost.

We will be conducting repairs to the masonry to keep the ruins in a stable condition. We will also be overhauling and increasing the soft-capping across the site. Soft-capping is the placing of soil and turf on the tops of the exposed walls of the villa. The turf absorbs excess moisture which can damage the walls and also provides a layer of insulation from frost.

The Custodian’s Cottage (left) and Mosaic Building (right).

Access and Open Days

The conservation of the villa ruins will start from summer 2024. During this time, areas of the site will have restricted access.

English Heritage will host two open days of the site this year when our contractor will give demonstrations of masonry conservation (the Mosaic Building will also be open on these days):

  • Wednesday 17 July
  • Wednesday 7 August
Our team of dedicated volunteers

The Mosaic Building will be open on the following days in 2024, between 11am– 5pm, with our team of volunteers welcoming visitors.

  • Saturday and Sunday, 25–26 May
  • Saturday and Sunday 22–23 June
  • Wednesday 17 July
  • Saturday and Sunday 20–21 July
  • Saturday and Sunday 27–28 July
  • Wednesday 7 August
  • Saturday and Sunday 17–18 August
  • Saturday and Sunday 24–25 August
  • Saturday and Sunday 7–8 September
  • Saturday and Sunday 21–22 September

Explore more

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