Visit to the site of the Roman Villa at Gestingthorpe.
On Tuesday September 14, sixteen members and friends attended a tour of the roman villa site at Hill Farm Gestingthorpe, the Home of Ashley Cooper and his father Harold
In 1947 Mr Harold Cooper began deep ploughing on the farm, during the course of which the plough started bringing up red tile. On approaching experts at Colchester he was told it was roman. Being not long after cessation of hostilities in 1945 there was no money to spare on archaeological digs as all the clearing of bomb sites was opening up opportunities to investigate areas which hitherto had been covered with buildings.
Mr Cooper was advised to go it alone. This he did and so began an interest which continues to this day 63 years later.
We were led by Ashley to the site which is clearly marked by grassed areas surrounded by darker soil to show the extent of the walls. With the aid of many pictures which he has commissioned the extent of the settlement with the farm and artisan areas also marked. Ashley has a natural talent when explaining how the villa was built and occupied. By the use of members standing in for the owners and servants the various jobs needed to keep the whole setup running smoothly was made understandable to everyone. Specific areas were pointed out where significant finds had been discovered, these were now displayed in the farmhouse museum. Ashley then took us on a field walk and we were instructed to keep our eyes on the ground to see what we could find, this walk produced a number of different tile pieces all of which he explained as to their original position on the villa.
The second part of the tour took us over the site of the latest area of interest where more digging will result at a later date
We then went to the barn museum where tea and biscuits were served and the new floor was officially open by Alan Fitch. This area has been designed with children in mind and groups of up to a dozen or so are encouraged to view history through different eyes. Ashley has made this facility his project for the future and all the members endorsed it with their agreement.
The last part of the tour was conducted in the farm house where both Harold and Ashley showed us the exhibition of the major artifacts on display.
Both Ashley and Harold were warmly thanked for a really interesting visit by Chairman Alan Fitch, and we then made our way homewards after three and a half hours of fascinating history.
The next meeting of the society will be on Tuesday October 12 with a visit to Gainsborough’s house commencing at 2pm. Please phone Alan 311913 if you would like to come.