Brading Roman Villa
Brading Roman Villa was a Roman courtyard villa which has been excavated and put on public display in Brading on the Isle of Wight. Beginning in August, 2008, a new excavation is due to begin; hopes are that it will reveal some new mosaics.

Discovery and excavation
1879 - present day In 1879 Captain Thorp of Yarbridge began searching for Roman antiquities in the fields of Morton Farm. Mr. Munns, a local farmer, also became interested. One evening whilst using an iron bar to make holes for a sheep pen, he struck the Bacchus mosaic floor. The following morning he and Captain Thorp had uncovered the Gallus panel. By spring 1880, half of the Roman villa had been excavated on farmer Munns’ land. The remainder of the site extended beyond the field and onto the Oglander estate. Lady Louisa Oglander then purchased the entire site so that excavations could continue. Although open to the public by the Oglander estate for many years, it was recently handed over to a charitable trust and considerable money spent to upgrade it to a more major tourist attraction, featuring a shop and cafe. Behind is a small amphitheatre made from grassy banks. This was made recently from spoil from the building work.

The Romans 2nd Augusta Legion under Vespasian conquered the Isle of Wight in 44CE. The first simple villa dates from the mid-1st century but, over the next hundred years, it developed into a large and impressive stone-built villa around three sides of a central courtyard. Its luxurious rooms contain many fine Roman mosaics. The Villa suffered a disastrous fire in the 3rd century AD. Despite this the site was still used for farming purposes for another 100 years. The decline of Brading Roman Villa started after about AD340, when estates in southern Britain suffered frequent raids by barbarian pirates. Life and trade were both at risk; yet Roman coins excavated at the site indicate human activity continued at Brading until the twenty-eight year reign of Emperor Honorius began in AD395.

The Villa
The remains of the villa are undercover in the Exhibition and Visitor Centre. The house consisted of twelve rooms on the ground floor, all of which survive, with some of the walls standing over one metre high. The function of each of the rooms is not certain. The largest room in the house with its beautiful mosaic floor may have been used for special occasions and to entertain guests. There is no evidence of a kitchen inside the house - food may have been prepared outside to reduce the risk of fire. Artefacts found within the house, such as Samian pottery, jewellery and games suggest that the occupants had a high standard of living.

The Mosaics
Five of the rooms in the main villa house have mosaics, depicting scenes of Roman fables and characters, and reflect the wealth and education of the occupants. Room 9 has a mosaic of a geometric pattern in the shape of a lozenge. Room 6 is the corridor of the house and consists of a red and white chequered floor with a central panel depicting the mythical character Orpheus. Room 3 has a mosaic with various images including Bacchus (Roman God of Wine), a cock-headed man, gladiators and a dome-shaped building. Room twelve contains the largest mosaic - it is divided into two parts and contains images of Roman gods, goddesses, Medusa and scenes reflecting farming and the sea.

The Cock-Headed Man
This is a unique feature of the mosaics and is thought to be intended to lampoon the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire Caesar Gallus (from 251-253CE), whose name means "cock" in Latin. Mosaics at Brading Villa are closely similar to others from Antioch. It is suggested that Palladius, the former magister officiorum of that city was their creator subsequent to his banishment to Britain: the notorious caricature of a cock-headed man being Palladius' lampoon of his former persecutor. It has been adopted as the site's logo.

Farm buildings
There were a range of buildings on each side of the main villa house. The north range was a farmhouse probably lived in by the workers where there are the remains of a hypocaust (underfloor heating) and a well. The south range consisted of agricultural buildings such as a granary and storerooms now marked out in chalk on the ground.

There is no evidence of a formal garden on this site in Roman times. However, a water feature called a nymphaeum which was situated outside the villa house is now undercover in the Exhibition Centre. There is a reconstructed Roman garden in the grounds with a variety of plants, herbs and flowers which may have been grown in Roman times.