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The Discovery and Excavation of the Roman Painted House

One of many sites investigated in 1970-1 was an area of overgrown gardens north of Market Street, Dover, Designated for a multi-storey car park. the gardens lay across the calculated line of the west wall of the late Roman ‘shore-fort. A trial hole in July 1970 found slight traces of the fort wall and also a painted wall of an unknown Roman house. The discovery remained a secret until July 1971 when a much larger area, by then used as a car park, was excavated. By August Rooms 2, 3 and 4 had been fully excavated and by the end of September the site was backfilled for protection. In 1972 another excavation located the fort wall, the bastion, the defensive ditch to the west and Rooms 5 and 6. Room 1 was excavated in 1975 and the passage to the north in 1976.

The Roman floors were located just 4m. below ground level and undisturbed soil at a depth of about 5m. In all some 5800 tons of soil and rubble were removed by the archaeological team.

Parts of five important rooms can now be seen, with thick flint and tile walls, strong concrete floors and elaborate under-floor heating (hypocaust). Of extra special interest are some 300 sq.ft. of finely painted wall plaster, the best preserved in situ Roman plaster on any site north of the Alps. The designs relate to the worship of Bacchus, the Roman God of wine and revelry, both appropriate for weary travellers staying in the mansio.