Daily Archives: November 29, 2011

Fishbourne Roman Palace

Following the death of my husband in 1998, I spent several years travelling between the UK and NZ.  I spent quite a lot of that time in West Sussex in a small village some 6 miles outside Chichester.

Model of Palace

Model of the Palace as it would have been

One of my favourite places to visit was Fishbourne, the site of the famous Roman Palace that was discovered in 1961 by workmen laying a new water main.  It is most certainly very impressive

This is the largest building of Roman origin north of the Alps and research has shown that the first buildings on the site were erected in or about 43 AD and were granaries to supply the conquering army.  A few years late a house was built on the site but quite a modest one.  This was apparently demolished to make way for the palace.  The remains of the north wing with its remarkable collection of mosaic floors are displayed inside a building erected to protect the site.

Mosaic floor

The palace consisted of four large wings with collonaded fronts, forming a square around a formal garden. The garden has now been replanted to its original plan.

The north and east wings consisted of suites of rooms built around courtyards, with a monumental entrance in the middle of the east wing.  In the north-east corner was an aisled assembly hall. The west wing contained staterooms, a large ceremonial reception room, and a gallery. The south wing contained the owner’s private apartments. The palace also included as many as 50 mosaic floors, under-floor central heating and an integral bathhouse.

At the time of my last visit in 2006 part of the hot water reticulation system has been unearthed quite recently.

Over the next two hundred years Fishbourne Roman Palace was further renovated, and this was when the mosaic floors were introduced,.  Man of these can still be viewed including the famous Boy on a Dolphin that people come from all over the world to view.

Boy on a dol[hin

World famous Boy on a Dolphin

As an aside, my mouse pad has a copy of the mosaic on it.

The building covers approximately 5,000 square feet and is comparable in size to Buckingham Palace or Nero’s Golden House in Rome.

In the late third century, Fishbourne Roman Palace was struck by fire and there is no evidence that the site was re-built beyond that date. The remains lay lost and forgotten until their discovery in the 1960s.


This skeleton has lain here undisturbed for many years, having been discovered during the excavation of the site.

When I was there excavation was continuing with a positive army of volunteers and an equal number of people tending the garden and the grounds and acting as guides to the many visions.

If you find yourself in West Sussex one day, do make the effort to go to the palace.  You will be well rewarded.