Work on a new bypass has revealed a Roman villa dating back to the third or fourth century AD which has lain hidden under farmers fields for hundreds of years.
Archaeologists say it is a significant find , and the first Roman villa to be discovered in North Yorkshire since the Second World War. It lies near Aiskew, Bedale, close to the A1 which is along the line of Dere Street, the original Roman road from Eboracum the capital of the north at York and the Roman fort of Cataractonium, now modern day Catterick.
Archaeologists discovered the site during initial excavations for the new £34m Bedale, Aiskew and Leeming Bar bypass and a dig has been carried out over the past four months.
“We expected to find some interesting archaeology but we never expected to find something quite so significant,” said Bedale Councillor John Weighell, leader of North Yorkshire County Council who are carrying out the work.
The villa is described as extensive with a series of rooms and one pavilion type room with under floor heating. There are small sections of mosaics, and evidence of plaster and concrete from floors and walls.
Development archaeologist Lucie Hawkins said:
”The rooms would have been painted in bright vibrant colours, it is a higher status building and would have had lots of colour.
“It helps us to look at the wider Roman world , the villa is quite close to the A1 which was a Roman road so we can build up a picture. We can’t say at the moment if it would have been connected to Cataractonium, there are other Roman settlements such as Aldborough.”
The dig is due to finish in the next couple of weeks and because it is a construction site people are not allowed on it. But a display held at a later date along with updates and a final report.
Cllr Weighell said the new road will cover part of the site but the council’s archaeological team has worked with English Heritage to gain as much knowledge as possible from the excavations.