A Tour of Fishbourne Palace
In 1960, a man was laying a waterpipe underneath the quaint village of Fishbourne near Chichester, West Sussex, when he uncovered what looked like Roman remains. After he duly reported the discover, the archaeologists were called in and they quickly unearthed more and more prestigious finds. They went on to uncover the largest Roman domestic building ever to be discovered north of the Alps: a palace laid out on Imperial lines. During the period of Roman occupation in Britain, one of the most important Roman settlements on the island was a city called Noviomagus Reginorum (modern day Chichester). The land around Chichester was originally owned by a British tribe called the Atrebates, who quickly sided with the Romans following Claudius’ invasion of the island in 43 AD. Not long after the invasion, a granary was constructed at the site in Fishbourne; but it soon transformed into a palace, completed in c.75 AD. Its interior was decorated with beautiful, unique frescoes and perhaps the first, formal garden ever constructed in the British isles. The question as to who owned the villa is debated. Some believe it was originally the home of a local British chieftain, who had sided with the Romans during their invasion and duly been rewarded by becoming a client king. Desiring to impress his new overlords, this chieftain had then constructed his palace in the Roman imperial image. For the next 200 years it appears Fishbourne Palace was occupied by powerful families living within the Roman Empire until it eventually burned down in c.270 AD. Many questions surrounding the history of this palace remain unanswered; to this day fascinating mysteries remain at Fishbourne Palace. In this episode, Dan visits the remarkable Fishbourne Palace and sees, first hand, why it is one of the greatest Roman sites in Britain. Snow on the Road is a History Hit TV Original series where Dan visits Britain’s best historical sites.