SOUTHWICK’S lost Roman villa was re-discovered by residents during a heritage talk with pictures and artefacts from the site.
Last Monday, Jeffrey Leigh led a talk about one of the earliest and largest villas in Sussex.
The villa was centred under what is now the Methodist Church at the corner of Southwick Street and Manor Hall Road.
It is thought to have been built in the first century AD, 50 or 60 years after the Romans arrived and is considered palatial in size.
Nigel Diver, from the Southwick Society, said: “It was very big, in fact the second biggest in Sussex and it would have been the centre of a large and important estate and an important family would have lived there, probably a local British family on good terms with the Romans.”
Around 90 people turned up to the event and filled the room. Nigel said that although everyone has heard of the villa not many people know the real story behind it.
The site was lost until the 19th century when people found coins and pottery in what was a market garden and the first excavation followed in 1845.
The site was excavated again in the 1930s and then donated to the Sussex Archaeological Trust in 1932 by an anonymous benefactor, however they could not maintain it and sold it off around 20 years later.
Nigel said: “This is a lesson of how not to keep a site, it was treated very badly.
“Many of the artefacts from the villa have been dispersed over the last 150 years but the Southwick Society has been successful in reuniting a number of them and these, together with a model of the villa and pictures of the site excavation are now on show at the Manor Cottage Heritage Centre in Southwick Street.
“The society has also encouraged and facilitated more research on the villa and the provision of a heritage information board on the site of the villa in Southwick Street.”
Nigel added: “The highlight of the event was piecing together odd bits of information into one coherent story. The site was not treated well for 200 years and records are dispersed but slowly we are gathering all the information together and creating a good picture of the villa.”
Jeffery Leigh’s talk was accompanied by pictures, maps, and artefacts found during different excavations or by accident.