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Published February 5th 2017
Brading Roman Villa - What the Romans Left For Us
Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the curved cedar-clad building with living green roof protects some of the best examples of Roman mosaic floors in the Northern Europe.
Armed with little more than primary school knowledge about life in Roman times, I stepped into an ingeniously designed museum with viewing platforms suspended just above the 3rd and 4th century mosaics. A tactile diorama of the layout of the rooms is at the beginning of the suggested walking route, a theme that runs throughout the museum with replica objects attached to the wall for people with impaired sight.
Viewing Platforms over Mosaic Floors in Brading Roman Villa
Knowledgeable volunteer guides are always on hand to give you an introductory guide to the museum. They have been trained to adapt their talk to meet the needs of visitors including those who are blind or have impaired sight. However, I found the £2.50 guidebook an invaluable resource both during and after my visit. It even contains an original Roman Cheesecake recipe with the method written in Latin and English.
Gods and Goddesses played a big part in Roman life and the mosaics in the villa are like a Pantheon to them all, each one representing an aspect of life on the large estate farm.
The Romans were fond of impressing visitors and so you will find Orpheus surrounded by creatures at the main entrance to the villa, displaying his ability to charm all living things. The villa was part of a large farming estate and as such Gods representing the seasons and harvests also appear in the mosaics. Medusa is at the head of the grand reception room and although she is better known for turning those who looked at her to stone, she was also known in history to have powers of repelling evil.
Of all the mosaics in the villa, there is one that is completely unique, The Cockheaded Man. Wearing a costume that would have been seen in the amphitheatres of the time, The Cockheaded Man is thought by some archaeologists to be a caricature of Caeser Gallus who cruelly rigged unmatched gladiatorial shows for his own amusement.
The Cockheaded Man Mosaic Image provided by Brading Roman Villa
Inside the museum, the climate is carefully controlled to protect the artefacts and can feel quite cold, so you may want to bring an extra layer if you arrive on a warm sunny day in shorts and a t-shirt. But you can always warm up in the café with great views over Sandown Bay before going back into the museum.
Children will love making their own mosaics with the provided tiles, taking coin rubbings from the large replica Roman coins and dressing up in traditional Roman costumes.
On the grassy grounds around the museum lie many more Roman remains like the original 24 metre deep well and a room with an under floor heating system called a hypocaust.
New discoveries at the site are still being made and temporary exhibitions make return visits a must. But I'd go back if only to see my favourite piece in the display cabinet. A large section of ceramic floor tile with a child's footprint and dog paw prints in it. I could just imagine Roman dad shouting at the boy and his dog. "I've just laid that floor. Get out!" as they rushed over the wet clay.
Large Clay Slab Showing Footprints of Child and Pawprints of Dog
With free parking and the opportunity to pick up a map for the recently introduced self-guided walking tour of other Roman sites around the area, you could make a whole day of visiting Brading Roman Villa.