Kent Archaeological Review extract

Roman Mosaics in Kent.
by T C Woodman.


If asked to name some of the Roman mosaic floors found in Kent most students would mention the floors at Lullingstone and perhaps one of those at Canterbury. However, it is clear that Kent with its extensive Roman occupation has many sites with mosaic floors, a number of which are mentioned in Charles Roach Smith's paper published in 1883, (Arch. Cant., XV, page 127.). Apart from this article, now 93 years old and Anne Rainey's recent book on British mosaics (Mosaics in Roman Britain, 1973) there has been no recent general survey listing those discovered in this county. The aim of this article, therefore, is to provide a comprehensive list of Roman mosaics found in Kent, based on published notes and reports, in a form suitable for the archaeologist and general reader.

No attempt has been made to present dating evidence, regional groupings or comparative artistic styles. All the same it is worth noting that there are some important geographical gaps where mosaic floors have not, as yet, been discovered (see Figure 1); Rochester and Dover both fall into this category. In fact as this article goes to press Post Office trenching at Canterbury has produced the remains of another mosaic floor, but so far no details are available.

The term 'mosaic floor' has been used in a general sense and therefore the floors and structures described here should more precisely be 'Roman, patterned, coloured, tessellated floors; plain floors falling outside the scope of this survey.

The list has two parts, the first covering surviving floors and the second detailing sites providing evidence of possible mosaics although when excavated not extant. My thanks go to Brian Philp for his suggestions and counsel in preparing this survey.

DRAWING: Map of Roman mosaic sites found in Kent.

Map of Roman mosaic sites found in Kent
Drawn by T C Woodman.


The Canterbury Sites (NGR TR 14 577).

Canterbury has a long and, sometimes for the researcher, a bewildering history of excavations dating back to Edward Hasted (1732-1812) and before. These have, however produced the remains of a number of tessellated floors some of which are on public display in the City. It is possible that future excavations conducted inside the city bounds and brought about by redevelopment will uncover more.

Site 1. Burgate Street.

Mosaic I. The site excavated in 1868, produced a number of plain tessellated floors and a fragment of mosaic showing a medallion framing an urn. (Reference: VCH Kent, Volume III, pages 68 and 72.)

Mosaic 2, 3 & 4. Excavations in 1946 in Butchery Lane uncovered a corridor with a tessellated floor along which were set three rectangular mosaic panels each with guilloche borders. The middle panel has a large stylised flower surrounded by two minor borders of diamonds. The other panels are similar in size and design but have an additional ivy leaf representation in each corner and inner borders based on 'dog tooth' triangles.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., LXI (1948), page 1, by A Williams FSA and Sheppard Frere FSA)

Site 2. The High Street (County Hotel).

Mosaic 5. Found in 1758 and reported in the Gentlemans Magazine in 1805 and although now lost, the early records and drawing show that the mosaic fragments had a design based on a guilloche archway with two columns flanked by guilloche bordered rectangles each enclosing a stylised flower.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., XV (1883), page 126, by C Roach Smith)

Site 3. East Mailing Roman Villa (NGR TQ 702 569).

Mosaic 6. During excavations undertaken in 1955 a small fragment of wall mosaic was found. This consisted of yellow, white and brown tesserae showing a pelta which was thought to be part of a mosaic frieze. The fragment is now in the Maidstone museum.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., LXXI (1957), page 228, by Mrs. Wacher)

Site 4. Farningham Roman Villa II (NGR TQ 545 667).

Excavations in 1948 uncovered the foundations of a number of rooms two of which had the remains of mosaic floors.

Mosaic 7. The tessellated floor of Room 21 measured some 16 feet wide by 14 feet 6 inches long and incorporated a central mosaic panel of which only one small part survives. This depicted a floral like motif set in blue, red and yellow tesserae.

Mosaic 8. Room 24 contained the remains of a 9-foot square mosaic panel set in the centre of a red tessellated floor. This design appeared to include double guilloche using red, blue, yellow and white tesserae divided by a blue band all on a white ground.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., LXXXVIII (1973), page 1, by G W Meates FSA.)

Site 5. Folkestone Roman Villa (NGR TQ 241 370).

Mosaic 9. The villa, situated at the top of a cliff to the east of Folkestone, was discovered in 1924. Excavations revealed the fragmentry remains of a mosaic panel, square in shape, with a central medallion design (missing) with four corner medallions interposed with four diamonds each probably framing a flower or leaf representation. The spaces between the medallion incorporated rectangles of guilloche mat with stylised flowers and ivy leaves in coil tendrills. The use of medallions and diamonds with guilloche patterns is said to be unique in Britain.

(Reference: Mosaics in Roman Britain, (1973), page 76, by Anne Rainey)

Site 6. Little Chart Roman Bath House (NGR TQ 939 458).

Mosaic 10. Discovered and excavated in 1947 the frigidarium was found to be approximately 8 feet square with the remains of a black and white cushion shaped geometric pattern mosaic floor set in a plain ragstone tessellated border.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., LXX (1957), page 130, by J Eames)

Site 7. Lullingstone Roman Villa (NGR TQ 530 651).

The two mosaic floors of the Lullingstone Roman Villa are without doubt the finest so far found (1949) in Kent and rank with the best in Roman Britain.

Mosaic 11. The apsidal dining room floor illustrates the rape of Europa who is sitting on the back of Zeus, here depicted as a white bull crossing a blue sea. The mythological group, which includes two cupids, is set in a double looped ribbon border in red, white and blue tesserae. Across the top or diameter of the panel, where it adjoins the other mosaic, is a Latin inscription refering to the jealousy of Juno.

Mosaic 12. The mosaic panel in, the principal room is rectangular the outside of which has a series of geometric designs including crosses, heart shaped leaves, triangles and swastikas. The central portion of the panel shows the classical figure of Bellerophon mounted on Pegasus killing the Chimaera with a spear. In each corner there is a medallion depicting a female head representing one of the four seasons.

(Reference: Lullingstone Roman Villa, (1963, 1967 ed.) HMSO, by G W Meates FSA)

Site 8. Maidstone Roman Villa (NGR TQ 765 548).

Mosaic 13. The building, found near Loose Road in 1870, has the remains of a very fine tessellated floor which is rectangular in shape but with one semicircular end. The design is a geometric zig-zag set in red and white tesserae.

(Reference: VCH Kent, Volume III, page 99, by R E M Wheeler)

Site 9. Springhead Roman Temples (NGR TQ 616 726).

The excavations undertaken over the last few years at this Romano-British settlement have uncovered the remains of a number of temples and associated structures. In temple 1 the porch, vestibule and cella all had tessellated floors.

Mosaic 14. The porch floor consists of a central decorative tessellated panel measuring some 26 inches by 54 inches all surrounded by a tile floor set in a herring bone pattern. The central panel has the remains of a simple motif with line designs set with mostly red but some yellow, pink and blue tesserae.

Mosaic 15. The vestibule mosaic was largely destroyed but the remains indicate that the panel was some 7 feet by 9 feet and included white tesserare which were found in situ in the corners.

Mosaic 16. The cella floor although predominently of red tesserae has a mosaic panel situated just in front of the entrance. The design of this panel is geometric having four rows of triangles and diamonds set in white, cream, black and red tesserae.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., LXXIII (1959), page 1, by W.S.Penn)

Site 10. Wingham Roman Bath House (NGR TQ 240 572).

Excavated in 1881 the three rooms each have tessellated floors.

Mosaic 17. Room 1. A plunge bath incorporating tessellated walls with a grey and white pattern.

Mosaic 18. Room 2. The floor of this room is in the form of simple dark hour-glass triangles arranged in large and small squares.

Mosaic 19. Room 3. A floor design consisting of small squares enclosed by Swastikas.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., XIV (1882), page 136, by C Roach Smith)


The following sites did not have extant tessellated floors although loose tesserae found in the building debris by the excavators strongly suggests that patterned, coloured floors once existed.

Site 11. Boxted Roman Villa (NGR TQ 854 663).

Mosaic 20. In 1882 the remains of two rooms, near this villa, were found one of which had a tessellated floor made from sandstone and chalk cubes.

(References: Arch. Cant., XV (1883), page 104, by G Payne FSA and VCH Kent, Volume III, page 196).

Further Canterbury Sites (NGR TR 148 577)

Site 12. Palace Street.

Mosaic 21. There are very few details relating to the tessellated floor found here, however, Cannon Rev. Scott-Robertson reported in 1883 that the pavement was constructed of red tesserae and had an overall width of 18 feet with a central part, some 2 feet wide, formed of red and white tesserae. The pavement was discovered sometime before 1868.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., XV (1883), page 338, by Cannon Rev. Scott-Robertson)

Site 13. St Margarets Site.

Mosaic 22. Another Canterbury mosaic was discovered in the 17th century somewhere in the parish of St Margarets by workmen constructing cellars but apart from this, little else is known.

(Reference: VCH Kent, Volume III, page 70, note 11)

Site 14. Eccles Roman Villa (NGR TQ 722 605).

This large Roman villa complex currently being excavated has produced evidence for several patterned tessellated floors.

Mosaic 23. Room 30. Very small fragments suggest it had a mosaic floor thought to illustrate two gladiators fighting within a central, guilloche bordered square. This was in turn set in a perspective box frame incorporating flowers and ivy leaves.

Mosaic 24. Room 31. Fragments recovered suggest this plunge bath had a mosaic which incorporated a dolphin design.

Mosaic 25. Room 87. The floor of this room consisted of five alternating strips of red and buff coloured tesserae. Rooms 92, 95 and 103 may also have had floors of similar design.

(References: Various Volumes of Arch. Cant., including LXXX (1965), page 69; LXXXIII (1968) page 43; LXXXIV (1969), page 93 and KAR Number 1 (1965) page 7; all by A P Detsicas, MA, FSA)

Site 15. Faversham Roman Villa (NGR TQ 021 617).

Mosaic 26. The 1965 rescue excavations which revealed a major part of the villa produced some 200 coloured tesserae fragments. The tesserae had formed part of a mosaic floor, incorporating five colours, situated in the main south wing of the villa.

(Reference: Excavations at Faversham 1965, (1968), by B.J.Philp)

Site 16. Horton Kirby Roman Villa (NGR TQ 559 685).

Mosaic 27. Discovered and excavated 1972-73 the north-east corner room of the Roman granary produced an intact, plain, tessellated floor and a number of coloured tesserae.

(Reference: KAR Number 34 (1972), page 113, by A Borthwick and H Davis)

Site 17. Lower Warbank, Keston, Roman Villa (NGR TQ 415 635).

Mosaic 28. During the 1955 excavations on part of the main villa building a few red and white tesserae were recovered. Recent and more extensive excavations have failed to provide any further evidence of tessellated floors.

(References: Arch. Cant., LXIX (1955), page 99, by N Piercy Fox BA and KAR Number 21 (1970) page 21, by B J Philp)

Site 18. Orpington Roman Villa (NGR TQ 454 658).

Mosaic 29. The limited excavations undertaken on this villa in 1955-56 produced a few coloured tesserae suggesting that the villa once had a mosaic floor.

(Reference: Arch. Cant., LXXI (1957), page XLVI by G D Copus and A J J Parsons)

Site 19.

'Progress' Roman Villa at Otford (NGR TQ 563 592)

Mosaic 30. Excavations on the villa in 1927 revealed a large number of loose tesserae. Most were red but a few were yellow, all about lin square. Some smaller tesserae of various colours were also recovered and almost certainly came from a mosaic floor.

(References: Arch.Cant., XXXIX (1927) page 153, by B W Pearce; and KAR Number 25 (1971), by E Mynott)

Site 20. Snodland Roman Building (NGR TQ 707 620).

Mosaic 31. The Snodland site, discovered in 1845, was partially excavated in 1964. Several rooms had tessellated floors and two small white tesserae, which may have come from a mosaic floor, were found.

(Reference: Arch.Cant., LXXXII (1967) page 192, by M A Ocock and M J E Syddell)

Site 9. Springhead Roman Temples (NGR TQ 616 726).

Mosaic 32. In addition to the floors detailed above, building B9 of this site produced a number of coloured tesserae from the debris in the corridor area. Excavators found red, white, pink and blue tesserae indicating that this building may have had a mosaic floor.

(Reference Arch. Cant., LXXXIII (1968), page 181, by W Penn)
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