Roman villa under Wanstead Park on cusp of being found

Historians are on the cusp of uncovering what they believe to be a Roman villa laying under the earth in Wanstead Park.

Evidence of artefacts being discovered in the park date back as far as the 18th century, but work to locate and prove the villa’s existence has been ongoing since the 1960s.

Thanks to modern technology, determined archaeologists have been able to finally mark an X on a spot they think is where the Roman home once stood.

Volunteers took part in a scrub clearance this week to remove vegetation preventing research, however Richard Arnopp, of the Wanstead Parklands Community Project, believes all non-invasive research has been exhausted.

He said: “Our geophysical survey has now been in progress for five years, and we feel it has been a resounding success, with new information being discovered about Roman and Prehistoric occupation.

“Although we are emphatically not claiming yet to have ‘found’ the Roman villa, our work has enabled us to draw certain conclusions about its location.”

Investigations from the 1960s until present have narrowed down the likely positions of the main buildings of the villa to the area north of the Perch and Heronry ponds.

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Roman finds since the research began have only consisted of pottery and coins thought to be from the 3rd and 4th centuries.

However, in around 1715 a mosaic pavement was uncovered by workmen laying an avenue of trees in Wanstead Park, then owned by Sir Richard Guild, that sparked rumours of a villa buried below the turf.

Epping Forest management approved the clearance work that took place this week which will help with the completion of a survey and deployment of a ground penetrating radar in the near future.

Though progress has been steady in recent years, Richard claims to be in no rush to dig just yet and says having time on your side can be one beauties in this kind of work.

He added: “Our sole objective at this time is to complete our geophysical survey, and we anticipate this will keep us fully occupied for most of the coming year.”

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