The Museum Collection: Roman

Bradford on Avon Museum, Wiltshire


Bradford on Avon Museum does not hold excavated material from organised archaeological digs, such as those at the Atworth and St Laurence School Roman villa sites. Objects excavated at Atworth are held by the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. Material from the St Laurence villa baths excavated in 1976 is held, for the time being, by the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham, although Bradford Museum is displaying some of the building’s painted plaster. Material from the 2002 and 2003 excavations at the villa is still being examined at Bristol University.

Bradford on Avon Museum does, however, hold some Roman items that have turned up by chance in gardens and fields.


Roman relief sculpture

A crude sculpture of a female figure, perhaps a celtic deity, with two attendants, possibly male. It was built into the wall of a building in St Margaret’s Street, Bradford and has been identified as Romano-British, but it is not known why it would have been in that location. Similar carved groups have been found in several places in the Celtic world, frequently in the Cotswolds. It was carved from a piece of shelly oolitic limestone from the Forest Marble beds and could have been made locally. It was probably originally wider, with a third attendant and another panel on the left. The face of the stone was trimmed with an axe when it was reused, so that some of the detail of the figures has been lost and there may have been some architectural on the right panel (and corresponding left side too). Other carving, perhaps an arch or pediment, may have been lost at the top.

Roman stone sarcophagus

A child’s sarcophagus (a stone coffin) which was found in a field near Parsonage Farm, Winsley. It was originally carved from a single block of limestone, but had been broken into several pieces by ploughing. The lid, which would have been another single piece of stone, was not found. It looks as if there might have been a small settlement somewhere nearby. Local amateur archaeologist Adrian Powell, who found the pieces, worked out the 3D jigsaw and reconstructed it. Some bones and pottery that were found near it went to the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.

The Museum holds another stone sarcophagus, but this is not on display. It was found when work was being carried out in developing the Churches housing estate and held the skeletons of two adults. It was for years in the open at St Laurence School. See Annable, F.K. 1956. Stone coffin at Bradford-on-Avon. Wiltshire Archaeology & Natural History Magazine 56, pp. 390-391