Impressive detail of Roman mosaic floor

Fragment of of mosaic from 4th century Roman villa.
Fragment of of mosaic from 4th century Roman villa.


Beadlam Roman Villa was excavated between 1966 and 1978. The villa is unusual because it is one of the most northerly examples known in Roman Britain. It is also one of the few Yorkshire villas to have been excavated on any scale under modern conditions.

The excavation work established that the villa had three building ranges, a well-preserved mosaic and an impressive bath-suite. The structures flanked a farmyard. Ditched enclosures pre-dating the villa were also discovered.

As well as building remains, the people who lived at Beadlam left other traces, including personal possessions, weapons, and objects from their daily lives.

One such building find was a fragment of a recently conserved section of a complete 4th century mosaic floor originally excavated in 1969 and lifted in sections (20 boxes in total) in 1974.

The room the mosaic came from measured 6.47m by 4.11m. It had been considerably damaged by the collapse of a channelled hypocaust, the furnace of which was situated outside the west wall; the damage resulted in the mosaic having a scar 0.60-0.80m wide almost the full length of the room and a wider scar towards the west end possibly indicating where a side channel once extended to box-flues in the north wall.

Some damage to the pavement also occurred in antiquity since mortar repairs were noted on either side of the flue in the centre of the room and a smaller patch towards the east end; the surface of the mosaic had also been burnt either as a result of hearths or the prolonged location of a brazier.

The mosaic has four colours, fine white limestone, grey lias, red tesserae made from smashed roofing tiles and a light brown used as a substitute for yellow. There are approxiamately 12 fine tessearae and 7 coarse tesserae to every 0.20m. Its overall scheme is divided into three fields, a central square flanked by large rectangles.

The central field has an all-over nine ‘panel’ grid of swastika-meander developing staggered squares at the four axis; they are filled with open squares of guilloche with the braids alternating grey, red, red and white and grey, light brown and white. In the only square to survive are four grey L-shapes set in each of the angles and with a cross motif in the centre; it is likely however, that similar decoration adorned the missing panels.

To the north and south of the meander pattern are long strips of guilloche also with the braids alternating and in the same colours. The large rectangles to the east and west of the main design are bordered with four-strand guilloche, without alternating braids, in grey, red, light brown and white. However the guilloche in the panel to the east is incorrectly worked with the red band placed between the white and light brown. Within the rectangle to the east is a narrow red stripe surrounded by a band of in-turned grey stepped triangles; the decoration of the more fragmentary west panel is the same, only it has a grey and not a red central stripe.

Bordering the three panels is a band of fine white tesserae surrounded in turn by a band of coarse out-turned red stepped triangles on a white ground, a band of red three tesserae wide, a band of creamy-grey three tesserae wide, another band of the same width and finally a broad border of coarse creamy grey tesserae which extended up to the face of the walls.

This border varies in width; on the north and south it is 0.35m wide, to the east 0.55m wide and to the west, on the opposite side of the entrance, 0.87m wide.


Two finds from Pickering Castle pictured here include a corer made from an animal bone, for preparing food in the kitchen. It has been decorated with cross hatching and has a patina through use.

A long-bow arrowhead, designed for hunting from the 13th- 15th centuries. The generally large size combined with extended barbs could have inflicted a significant injury to an animal when hunting in the royal forests at Pickering.