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
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.