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Lullingstone Roman Villa (England)

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3 Reviews

Kent / DA4 0JA / England

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    3 Reviews
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      04.06.2010 08:02
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      Lullingstone Roman Villa

      This is amazing place to see and very spectactular and it portrays a very documented history of life in Roman Times and how they lived there daily lives spanning over three centuries.

      It was dicovered in the year 1939 and it is one of the best Roman Villas to see as it is so preserved and you certainly get a better understanding how they lived all those years ago.
      It is situated in the beautiful Darent Valley. The Villa was built around the year AD 100 and it became over the years until it reached being a fine building with amazing looking floors which comprises of mosiacs. It had many owners and the family called Perinax we are told could have resided there and many other well to do people. Also we are told they used to practice Christainity and Pagism at the villa but on different floors.
      You will be able to see where they added a bath-suite which was heated and a pagan cult-room there is a painting which has three water-nymphs and it is breathe taking to see this painting which is on the wall. The large dining room was completed in the fourth century and lots more on offer.It is a must to see with your eyes because the Villa is so amazing.
      You can visit the Roman Villa anytime of the year and the only time that it is not open is 24/25 December and the 1st January

      : The property is open all year, except for 24-26th December and 31st January. That I when it is also closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.From April- the end of September they are open from 10am-6pm and the other months open 10am-4pm.
      The entrance fee cost I think is very good value
      From 1/4/10 Adult £5.90 Children £3.00
      It belongs to the English Heritage so if you are a member then you can go in for free
      They also have Family Ticket and the cost for that is £14.80
      There are no refreshments on site of the Roman Villa but in nearby village of Eynesford.

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        03.09.2009 12:21
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        Lovely example of Roman villa remains

        "Secluded, detached villa in 200 acres with river frontage. The property has been extended and now affords spacious family accommodation as well as domestic staff quarters. Warm air under-floor central heating throughout. Through dining room with decorative tiled floor. Suite of bathrooms with hot and cold plumbing and sunken baths. Excellent decorative order with many unique design features. Farm buildings. Viewing highly recommended."

        So might a fourth century Romano-British estate agent, with one eye on his commission, have written up this villa. Nearly two thousand years later the current owners, English Heritage, had the decorators in to redo the layout and displays, and they were just as keen that we should view it. So off I went.

        I'm sure "locus, locus, locus" was the mantra then just as much as now, as this is a most charming and peaceful location. It's fortunate in that it remains secluded - no modern housing or industry crowds up around it or indeed is visible from it at all. In fact, if you pick your spot, blotting out the car park and the unfortunately placed railway viaduct further down the valley, the view will not be dissimilar to that enjoyed by its original occupants. Watling Street (now imaginatively renamed the A2) ran/runs from Richborough on the Channel coast to Canterbury and on to London, crossing rivers flowing south to north towards the Thames. Two of these rivers, the Medway and the Darent, have several villa sites in their valleys because of the closeness to the trade and transport route. Lullingstone is on the Darent, a small river which can dry up completely in summer. Not when was there though; it was chuckling along busily, as little English rivers should, winding through willows and alders and with water meadows beyond. A really lovely spot.

        Unfortunately, the exterior of the building we are presented with today does not proclaim past glories. It is a purely functional structure covering the villa site and housing the administrative offices. But no matter, the interest lies inside. The entrance, ticket office and shop occupy the north side, and from there you go into the site itself. The east, west and south sides have wooden walkways round them and there is also a second, upper level on the east side so you get various perspectives. What remains of the original walls is very low, so you can easily "see" into all the rooms from every angle. It's like looking down on a floor plan, and, like all floor plans in my experience, seems to make the building smaller without the height dimension.

        So what are you looking at? Well, the stone-built construction dates from the first century AD and it was extended and the internal layout changed round at various times until it was a sizeable villa. Sadly it suffered a common fate, being destroyed by fire (in the early 5th century) and that was the end of it. Soil sliding down the hillside behind covered and protected it until it was excavated in the 1940s and 1950s. Nothing is known of the families who lived there, other than that they were reasonably well-to-do and worked the surrounding land with their domestic servants.

        In truth, it requires a great deal of imagination, or a historian's detailed knowledge, to peer down into these dark rectangles of living space and try to populate them with life, love, argument and laughter. Some of the functions can only be guessed at, e.g. "probable bedroom", but the specific shapes of the bath suite are recognisable and connoisseurs of Roman remains will recognise the wobbly piles of hypocaust tiles. Part of a flight of steps leading down into a cellar is a nicely distinct feature. I also like the fact that the whole perimeter, of the main building at least, is distinguishable, unlike other, larger villas at Fishbourne and Bignor where only a part has been excavated. So far, interesting enough, but two specific features lift it into the "distinguished and unique" bracket.

        The first is the mosaic floor in the triclinium, or dining room. The largest room in the house, it opened out into an apse at the top and was the room for receiving, feeding and impressing guests. Two lovely mosaics survive, almost complete, depicting mythical scenes of Europa and the Bull and Bellerophon and the Chimaera. Between the two scenes are decorative panels, including swastika shapes and key patterns. The colours are gold, deep red, ivory and black; the details are fine and the lines are flowing. I liked them very much. I've just had a look at what the guide book had to say and it was rather sniffy, admitting that the lines were "simple and effective" but pointing out the errors the mosaicist had made as experts like to do. Well the almost impossible to spot errors did not detract from them for me, and there was an excellent view from the upper floor right down on to them.

        The second feature is rather more problematical. A clue can be found on the wall of a room just inside the entrance - a painting in a niche of a water nymph. During excavations thousands more pieces of painted plaster were found in the cellar and painstakingly reconstructed. One of the reconstructions is said to represent a chi-rho, a symbol for Christ, and the other a frieze of "orantes" or praying figures with arms upraised. From this evidence Lullingstone has been acknowledged as one of the earliest sites of Christianity in the UK, over 200 years before St Augustine arrived. But you look in vain for these relics during your visit here, for they are in the British Museum. All you can see at the place where they were found are photos and diagrams. Similarly two marble male heads have also been carted off, and copies made for display at Lullingstone. How irritating is this? The things that make the site unique are not here. Suddenly I have some sympathy with the Greeks' "give us back our Elgin Marbles". (Well only some. If they were in Greece I doubt I'd ever see them!).

        Later on a visit to the British Museum I made a point of seeing the Lullingstone stuff. It was, not surprisingly, in the room dedicated to Romano-British relics, of which there is a considerable amount, some of it truly stunning. So our paintings and heads were a little lost among the riches, and were difficult to appreciate out of context. The site at Lullingstone loses because its unique findings are elsewhere, and the British Museum loses because the significance is not fully brought out and there is no information about the site. A sign next to the display said "Donated by Kent County Council". Well thank you, KCC. The marble heads are labelled as only "on loan". Can we have them back?

        And what of the paintings themselves? They are displayed with the original bits of painted plaster mounted on a board, and the missing bits added in. From a distance they look amazing, but close up you can see that the proportion of "actual" to "assumed" is something like 10/90. With the chi-rho image it is a little better, more like 30/70. In short, to an amateur like me it is almost inconceivable that they got from these bits to that completed image. A write-up, either at Lullingstone or the BM, on the process and deductions would be fascinating and instructive. However, we must just admire both the original artwork of byzantine-looking, haloed, robed figures, and the brilliance of the 20th century reconstruction.

        Meanwhile, back at Lullingstone, there's more to see. A mausoleum behind the villa yielded several graves and grave goods of jewellery and a game with counters. Many pottery, bronze and glass containers were also found. These are well displayed with good descriptions, along with panels describing life and times and some very useful images of what the villa probably looked like. A short film on a screen hung over the site is well produced, and the relevant areas are illuminated as they are mentioned. Some kind of directional sound means it does not interfere with other visitors. If you take the kids, there is a good children's section with a quiz, dressing up clothes, and making mosaics out of tesserae. This mosaic-making is popular at Roman sites, but it's good fun. So I elbowed a couple of eight-year-olds out of the way and had a go.

        If I have an issue with the whole layout, it's with the lighting. Obviously the site has to be covered, but does it have to be so dark? There is no natural light at all; instead there is a series of spotlights which dazzle but do not illuminate, and the remains of the villa are dark enough to start with. Trying to read my booklet I was either struggling to find an angle for it to be legible, or shielding my eyes from a piercing beam. Bignor and Fishbourne have glazed side walls which I would wholeheartedly recommend here.

        Also a little strange was what is not visible. In the excavations of the 1940s they uncovered a granary, then covered it up again. It now lies under a patch of grass next to the car park. Up on Hadrian's Wall they get very excited about granaries. One is being uncovered at Vindolanda, and at Corbridge the two granaries with their huge buttresses, raised floors and mullioned windows are a pride and joy. Why not leave this one exposed? Despite all those years of Time Team there's much still mystifies me about archaeology.

        So I have some moans, but overall it's well worth a visit. The whole site is small enough to get to grips with and the mosaics and finds are a delight. Stepping outside again one can't help but admire the location once more. It's easy to envisage the owner on his verandah in the evening forgetting for a while his worries about economic stability, education, health, rising prices. Nothing much changes. Least of all the view.


        Practical details. Lullingstone Villa is just outside the village of Eynsford. Follow the signs from the centre of the village. Don't worry when the road narrows down to a country lane and the signs peter out. Keep going, keeping the river on your left and when the road stops you're there. Don't go to Lullingstone Castle (of recent TV series fame) as there's no direct route from there. Much of the visit is on one level, but there are steps up to it and up to the upper level. There is a small lift. Opening hours vary through the year and are on the English Heritage website.

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          10.04.2009 19:06
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          It's a good place for children and adult both to learn the history that happened in this country

          Today is the start of Easter Holiday in the UK. Although the weather forecast said it would have rain during the day, I still decided to go out. I chose Lullingstone Roman Villa, which could provide all-weather-opportunity to trace Roman domestic life over three centuries in Britain.

          The word 'Villa' usually refers to a farm. Lullingstone Roman villa is a special one because it had a luxurious bath facilities. It was begun in about AD 100, and developed to suit the tastes and beliefs of successive wealthy owners. In 1949-1961, it was excavated.

          Here I saw ancient Roman's life, including their work, their food, their lifestyles, especially their faiths and how it influenced today's English people's life and English language. During the visit, I also saw some of the best evidences for the adoption of Christianity in Britain---- a religion which shook the Roman Empire and changed the world for ever.

          I also played Roman board games and dressed like a Roman there. They were interesting.

          The information the Villa provided is so rich. It made me feel I was back to my university study again.

          Overall, this villa is very impressive and worthy to visit. It's a good place for children and adult both to learn the history that happened in this country 2000 years ago.
          For more details and pictures ,please visit my blog. Thank you.

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        • Product Details

          The Villa was built in AD75 and displays some of the earliest evidence of Christianity in Britain.