Kidadl
Two actors in Roman gladiator gear having a re-enactment fight at Bignor Roman Villa & Museum.
View of the mosaic with leaves in the foreground at Bignor Roman Villa & Museum.
Thatched houses protecting the villa at Bignor Roman Villa & Museum.
Medusa mosaic at Bignor Roman Villa & Museum.

Bignor Roman Villa & Museum

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Please be aware of government guidelines before setting off.

Government Guidelines
  • Touch and walk on some of the best-preserved Roman floor mosaics in Britain.
  • Discover fascinating Roman treasures at the Bignor Museum.
  • Read the stories and tales that are delicately woven into the mosaics.
  • Dress up as a Roman in the kid's activity area.
  • Travel down Stane Street on your way to the villa, one of the oldest Roman roads in Britain.

Home to some of the most well-preserved and ornate Roman mosaics in the United Kingdom, Bignor Roman Villa is a perfect example of a Roman villa, that was excavated and can now be visited. Dating all the way back to 190 AD, the house on this site was left undiscovered until a local farmer, George Tupper, discovered a water basin in one of the buried rooms by hitting it with his plough in 1811. Soon, more features began to be uncovered and eventually, a whole villa came to life and was excavated from the ground. Thatched buildings were constructed to contain the villa and protect it from the elements, as well as theft and vandalism. These distinctive buildings are still on the site to this day and are Grade II listed.

While it isn't known who exactly lived in the house, it is likely to have been a wealthy family, due to the complexity of the mosaics. The mosaics are highly detailed and depict mythological tales including that of Ganymede, Trojan cupbearer to the ancient Gods, as well as the goddess Venus. One famous mosaic is of a dolphin, and you'll also find a likeness of Medusa, as well as two gladiators fighting. Because of the sequential nature of many of the stories told in these mosaics, this makes a great comparison for kids who like comics and cartoons, as the way in which the images are read is not dissimilar.

Other elements of the Bignor Roman Villa and Museum, as well as the mosaic floors, include a complex hypocaust system that you would have expected to see in wealthy Roman homes and also at heated Roman baths. This ingenious system allowed for certain rooms in the house to have under-floor heating, much like we do today!

As you travel to the South Downs National Park, you'll come across perhaps more history than you bargained for. The Chichester area, in particular, is known for its Roman history. With the famous Fishbourne Roman Palace located only a 25-minute drive away from Bignor Roman Villa, there is a vast amount to explore in the area if Roman history interests you, or your children are learning about the Roman Empire at school. In Fishbourne, you'll find the largest Roman building that has ever been found in the UK, complete with huge beautiful mosaics and Roman artefacts. To continue the adventure, the unassuming city of Chichester also has a long and fascinating history, that began as the settlement of Noviomagus Reginorum almost 2,000 years ago. Now, most of the Roman remains lie below the ground, but the location of Chichester gives us insight as to why Bignor Roman Villa is located where it is- it had good connections to the Roman city of Chichester.

Bignor Roman Villa is a favourite for families and kids, in part due to its proximity to the nearby city of Chichester, but also in its own right as a fascinating historical marvel. You can even follow a trail at Bignor to learn more about the history of the site, and keep your eyes out for events such as historical re-enactments that include gladiator fighting, Roman falconry, sport, and much more. The mosaics themselves are also not off-limits and can be walked on and touched just like they would have been back in Roman times. There is also a kids area, where children can dress up just like Romans, and even learn how to write like a Roman on beeswax tablets. The museum itself is also a fascinating place to take in the different artefacts and remains that tell us more about this old Roman house.

For those who might start to feel a little peckish after all that exploring, there is a small café at Bignor Roman Villa that is perfect for a tea, coffee or slice of cake. There is also a picnic area on site where you can sit and enjoy your own food if you wish. Alternatively, head into the village of Pulborough, where you can find some local food to takeaway or sit in. With the city of Chichester less than half an hour's drive away, here you'll find lots more options for food, drink and shopping. Make sure to check out Stane Street as you travel to Bignor Roman Villa, as this was an important Roman road linking Chichester and London, and is thought to have been one of the first paved roads in the country.

If your family were drawn in by the beauty of the mosaics at Bignor Roman Villa & Museum, why not continue your historical journey into Chichester, and check out the Norman Chichester Cathedral? Having existed for almost 1,000 years, there is plenty for the whole family to see and do. Or, for a more relaxed trip out of the city, head to the seaside and check out the beautiful Bognor Regis beach, where you can stroll along the seafront and get some fresh air.

What to know before you go

  • Bignor Roman Villa & Museum is open from 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • There are no accessible toilets or baby changing facilities available on site. Due to the historic nature of the buildings, some of the areas are not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies.
  • Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on site.
  • Kidadl recommends spending at least two-three hours at Bignor Roman Villa & Museum, to make the most of your trip here.

Getting there

  • To get to Bignor Roman Villa & Museum by car, from local roads, you can follow the brown signs which will clearly signpost Bignor. There is ample free parking on site.
  • The nearest train station is at Amberley, which is just over three miles away.
  • If catching the bus, take the no.99 service from Chichester, which will stop at the entrance of the Villa.
  • You can also cycle to Bignor if you choose, with many beautiful local cycle routes available nearby.

Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.

Government Guidelines

Location

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