Gadebridge Park Villa

Villa

The Gadebridge Park Villa site is thought to have been occupied for well over three hundred years. Originally, it was probably a farmstead, but after the Roman invasion of AD43 its importance as a farm near to the Roman city of Verulamium would have caused it to be extended.

During the Antonine Period (AD138-161), a stone building with corridors and wings was erected, probably covering much of an early timber structure. By the early 3rd century additional wings had been built to create a courtyard and the bath house was further enlarged.

Between around AD300 and AD325 a large swimming pool had been added and had a considerable number of heated rooms. The swimming pool is the largest one to have been found on a Roman villa site and only the large bath at Bath surpasses it in size. The water was supplied from the nearby River Gade and at the bottom of the steps there are small holes for fish to seek refuge.

By AD325 the villa had reached its most complex phase. The main building now comprised two storeys and had facilities for drying corn as well as the heated rooms and nearby bathing facilities already referred to. However, it would appear that the villa was deliberately destroyed around the middle of the fourth century and the area seems to have been given over to stock rearing.

When was the Gadebridge Park Villa discovered?

The site was first discovered in May 1962 when workers using bulldozers to construct the Leighton Buzzard Road uncovered some masonry (later identified as part of a swimming pool linked to the villa). Members of the local history society were called in and discovered nails, tesselated pavements and bits of pottery. Dr I Anthony, the Curator at Verulamium Museum, confirmed that the site was Roman.

The discoveries led to the formation of Hemel Hempstead Excavation Society which, with financial support from the Ministry of Works, Hemel Hempstead Borough Council and various learned societies, sponsored the excavations that took place during the summers of 1963 to 1968.

Excavations at Gadebridge Park Villa

The site was excavated between 1963-7 by D.S Neal and the Hemel Hempstead Excavtion Society. It was reexcavated in 2000 by Dr Neal.