Thursday, 13 February 2014

Eaton Villa

Eaton Villa
Travellers in the north west may be surprised to learn that villas in the area are extraordinarily rare: in fact, in our travels we’ve only come across one. If you are visiting the area and out to experience this aspect of Roman life, that means you need to look at what’s happening at what some called Eaton, by Taporley.

Of course what you see depends on when you go. For much of the timeframe, you’ll see a large timbered building with a stone hearth. But this’ll get destroyed by fire, which is a bit ironic given the ditches and pits sitting around that are for wooden tanks for holding water brought in from the hillside spring (so you don’t have to mess around fetching it on a grim day). But around AD 170-200 up goes the new building and this is far more to our tourist liking, much more solidly built in sandstone, limestone and slate.

It has two wings, which include you’ll be delighted to know a bath suite. There are five rooms, with wall plaster and mortared pebble floors, plus central heating: try to get a room here as one of the wing rooms is a bit more chilly. A nice touch is the colonnaded frontage which adds an extra tinge of dignity and authority to the place. A century later, visitors will still find the bath suite, but the colonnade is converted into more rooms and look out for the second storey.
Notes for out-of-season travellers
Eaton Villa itself can’t be visited, as it’s on private land. However, you can get a good feel for Roman Cheshire at the Eaton Museum. It’s on Grosvenor Street in Chester (CH1 2DD) Monday to Saturday 10.30-5, and Sunday 1-4, around ten minutes’ walk from the Town Hall. Amongst the galleries is a one on Roman Chester which includes some good models plus the equivalent of legionary discharge papers, and a second one holding an extensive collection of Roman tombstones.

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