Lullingstone Roman Villa Mosaic

Lullingstone Roman Villa Mosaic

Lullingstone Roman Villa Chi Rho Fresco

Lullingstone Villa Chi Rho Fresco

Lullingstone Roman Villa is a villa built during the Roman occupation of Britain, situated near the village of Eynsford in Kent, south eastern England. Constructed in the 1st century, perhaps around A. D. 80-90, the house was repeatedly expanded and occupied until it was destroyed by fire in the 5th century. The occupants were wealthy Romans or native Britons who had adopted Roman customs. Some evidence found on site suggests that about A. D. 150, the villa was considerably enlarged and may have been used as the country retreat of the governors of the Roman province of Britannia. Two sculpted marble busts found in the cellar may be those of Pertinax, governor in 185-186, and his father-in-law, Publius Helvius Successus. In the Saxon period, the ruins of a Roman temple-mausoleum on the site of the villa were incorporated into a Christian chapel (Lullingstane Chapel) that was extant at the time of the Norman Conquest, one of the earliest known chapels in the country. The villa is located in the Darent Valley, along with six others, including those at Crofton, Crayford and Dartford.


The earliest stage of the villa was built around 82 AD. It was situated in an area near to several other villas, and was close to Watling Street, a Roman road by which travellers could move to and from Londinium to Durobrivae, Durovernum Cantiacorum, and the major Roman port of Rutupiæ (i.e., London, Rochester, Canterbury, and Richborough, respectively). Around AD 150 the villa was expanded and a heated bath block with hypocaust was added. Two marble busts from the 2nd century found in the cellar perhaps depict the owners or residents of the villa, which may have been the designated country retreat of the provincial governors. There is some evidence that the busts are those of Pertinax, governor of Britannia in 185-186, and his father. In the 3rd century, a larger furnace for the hypocaust as well as an expanded bath block were added, as were a temple-mausoleum and a large granary. In the 4th century, the dining room was equipped with a fine mosaic floor with one illustration of Zeus, disguised as a bull, abducting Europa and a second depicting Bellerophon killing the Chimera.


Sometime early in the 5th century a fire destroyed the building, and it was abandoned and forgotten until its excavation in the 20th Century. The first discovery of the site was made in 1750, when workers fencing a deer park dug post holes through a mosaic floor, but no systematic excavations were done until the 20th century. In 1939, a blown-down tree revealed scattered mosaic fragments. The villa was excavated in the period 1949–61 by archaeologists, and the ruins themselves were preserved under a specially-designed cover in the 1960s, when the villa was taken over by English Heritage, who opened the ruins to the public. The building began to leak late in the 20th century and required a major £1.8m renovation and redisplay project in 2006-08 to make it safe to display fragile objects from the site in it.


The dining room, or triclinium, was situated in the centre of the main building, and was highly decorated with a pair of large mosaics on the floor dating to the mid-4th century. One depicts the abduction of the princess Europa by the god Jupiter who is disguised as a bull, whilst the other depicts Bellerophon slaying the Chimaera, whilst surrounded by four sea creatures. Surrounding these mosaics were smaller images depicting hearts, crosses and swastikas.


One room of the building had been used as both a pagan shrine, and, later, as a Christian chapel, one of the earliest in Britain. The original pagan shrine room was dedicated to local water deities, and a wall painting depicting three water nymphs dating from this period can still be seen in a niche in the room. Just after the 3rd century, this niche had been covered over, as the whole room had been redecorated with white plaster painted with red bands, and two busts of male figures had been placed in the room. Some scholars have theorised that at this point the inhabitants focused their worship on household deities and ancestor spirits, largely abandoning the worship of the water deities. In the 4th century the room above the pagan shrine was apparently converted to Christian use, with painted plaster on the walls, including a row of figures of standing worshipers, (orans), and a characteristic Christian Chi-rho symbol. Some of the paintings are now on display in the British Museum.


According to English Heritage, which maintains the site: 'The evidence of the Christian house-church is a unique discovery for Roman Britain and the wall paintings are of international importance. Not only do they provide some of the earliest evidence for Christianity in Britain, they are almost unique – the closest parallels come from a house-church in Dura Europus, Syria.' Perhaps almost as remarkable as the discovery of the house-church is the possibility that pagan worship may have continued in the cult room below. What is not clear is whether this represented the family hedging their bets, trumpeting their apparent acceptance of Christianity, while trying to keep the old gods happy, or whether it represents some members of the family clinging to old beliefs in the face of the adoption of Christianity by others. A Romano-Celtic temple-mausoleum complex was constructed around 300 AD to hold the bodies of two young people, those of a male and a female, in lead coffins. Although the young woman's coffin was robbed in antiquity, the other remained in situ and undisturbed, and is now on display at the site.


Wheelchair access across the whole of the indoor site. Access to Mausoleum and Shrine by steps only. Disabled visitors can be set down near the entrance. Do not need to ring to arrange in advance. There are no allocated disabled parking bays but disabled visitors may be able to park on the roadside, next to site. There are two sets of stairs to reach higher levels (lift available). Two lifts: one at the entrance to the villa and the other on the upper ground floor opposite the mosaic. Will accommodate wheelchair or mobility scooter. Benches located throughout the villa on ground and first floor. Benches also located outside the villa. There is a slight slope to the entrance. Ground surfaces are bonded gravel and smooth grass. Assistance dogs are welcome. There are accessible toilets on site. There is a handling collection and a voiceover on film. The handling collection includes Roman building materials, a model of the villa at its height, Roman costumes, Roman games, reproduction mosaics tables.

Lullingstone Castle Entrance

Lullingstone Castle Entrance

Lullingstone Castle

Lullingstone Castle

Lullingstone Castle


Lullingstone Castle is an historic manor house, set in an estate in the village of Lullingstone and the civil parish of Eynsford in the English county of Kent. The present Manor House and Gatehouse, which overlook a stunning 15-acre lake, were built in 1497 and have been home to the same family ever since. Both Henry VIII and Queen Anne are known to have been regular visitors. Hidden in the grounds, alongside the River Darent, visitors will also find "Queen Anne's" Bathhouse and an 18th century Ice House.


Although now closed, Lullingstone Silk Farm was established by Lady Zoe Hart Dyke, Tom Hart Dyke's paternal grandmother, in the early 1930s and was the country's first such farm. She began the enterprise at Lullingstone Castle, later moving to Ayot St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire in 1956, and was credited with reviving the 'art of sericulture' in the UK. A childhood passion became a flourishing business, producing silk for Queen Elizabeth's (the late Queen Mother) coronation robes in 1937, for the current Queen's wedding dress in 1947 and for the robes in her subsequent coronation in 1953. Silk was also used in parachutes during the second world war. Fortunately Lady Zoe imported her silkworms from China - it would have been considered unpatriotic had Italian silkworms, so soon after WW2, been used for royal occasions. Lady Zoe ran quite an operation - some 30 rooms of the House were taken over to breed hundreds of thousands of silkworms and more than 20 acres of the estate were populated by mulberry bushes to feed them - they were fed white mulberry (Morus Alba) leaves. Each silkworm's cocoon produced 1/4 mile of silk! Tom Hart Dyke's paternal grandfather Sir Oliver also designed, produced and installed machines to reel the cocoons - 'power' reelers - which were then manufactured for export. In 1947 the Farm was commissioned to produce silk for an altar frontal for the Church of St Botolph, which now hangs in Queen Anne's bedroom in the House for visitors to see. The Silk Farm later produced silk for the late Princess Diana's wedding dress but by that time, the Farm had been sold and moved to Dorset.


According to British Sports and Sportsmen (London), Sir William Hart Dyke was 'one of the best amateur rackets players of his day' and in 1860, he took the championship at the former headquarters of rackets, the 'Prince's Club', from a professional player in single-handed games. In 1873, four years before the first Wimbledon tennis match, a famous lawn tennis match was played at Lullingstone Castle, involving Sir William, John Heathcote and Julian Marshall. Sir William and John Heathcote went on to help frame the 'first real code of rules' in 1875 as members of a sub-committee of the Marylebone Cricket Club. In June 1938, Lullingstone hosted a re-enactment of this famous tennis match, with the same rules, style, dress and equipment as the original - watch a video of the event here. In attendance were Sir William's son Sir Oliver Hart Dyke, Lullingstone Castle’s owner at that time, and his sister Mary Bell. Ball boys from the 1873 match returned to participate in the 1938 re-enactment, one of whom was aged 81.


On 16th June 2000, during Tom's 9-month kidnap ordeal in the Colombian jungle, Tom opened his diary and began plans for a garden which would contain plants from around the globe planted in their respective continents of origin. This plan would eventually become ‘The World Garden of Plants’. Tom Hart Dyke is a modern day plant hunter who follows in the traditions of the plant hunters of old who risked life and limb in pursuit of fantastic blooms and plants. Tom’s World Garden pays homage to the amazing achievements of Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters who brought back the plants and flowers we now cherish and grow in our gardens in the UK. Established in 2005, the World Garden of Plants continues to grow and build year on year, adding rare and important botanical plants to its collection. An example of the Dinosaur Tree (Wollemi Pine), the oldest tree in the world, is planted close to Ayers Rock (Uluru) in the Australian border. The rare and beautiful Eucalyptus Silver Princess flowered for the first time in the UK ever within the grounds in 2006. Penstemon ‘Crac’s Delight’, discovered by Tom in 1999 and named after his Granny, now blooms in Mexico. Awaiting official recognition, the Dahlia 'Lullingstone Castle', a big pink-petaled, yellow-centred single flower, was discovered in the World Garden in 2009. There are innumerable other horticultural delights for visitors to see, smell and touch, including the stinky Dog Pooh plant (Hoodia gordonii) the world's most dangerous plant, the Queensland Stinger (Dendrocnide moroides) and the hottest chilli - Dorset naga.


The World Garden is accessible by wheelchair or mobility scooter except for the polytunnels. The ground floor of the House is accessible by wheelchair or mobility scooter but the first floor is not. There are 27 steps up to the first floor. St Botulph's Church is also accessible. Wheelchairs are available upon request and there are concessions available for those with a disability. Assistance dogs are welcome, but other dogs must find another venue.


Location : Lullingstone Roman Villa, Lullingstone Lane, Eynsford, Kent DA4 0JA

Location : Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, Kent DA4 0JA

Transport : Eynesford (National Rail) then 20 minutes or bus. Bus Routes : Arriva bus 478, Go-Coach 421 and Nu Venture 405 (Wed) stop near by

Opening Times Roman Villa: November through March Weekends 10:00 to 18:00; April to October Daily 10:00 to 18:00

Opening Times Castle: Friday to Sunday 14:00 to 15:00; Bank Holidays 12:00 to 17:00

Opening Times World Garden: Friday to Sunday + Bank Holidays 12:00 to 17:00

Tickets Roman Villa: Adults £7.70;  Concessions £6.90;  Children (5 - 15) £4.60.

Tickets Castle: Adults £8.00;  Concessions £6.50;  Children (5 - 15) £4.00.

Tel. Villa: 01322 863467

Tel. Castle: 01322 862114