The largest known Roman villa in England is also one of the earliest Roman villas in the British Isles. The Fishbourne Roman Palace (otherwise known as the Fishbourne Villa) is located in the sleepy village of Fishbourne in West Sussex. The Romans ruled England for hundreds of years - although it was always quite a peripheral province to the Empire.

Roman ruins can be found throughout England today. In Wales, most of the impressive Roman ruins (which are some of the best in the UK) are mostly in South Wales. Many may think that Scotland was never conquered by the Romans, but while much of it wasn't subdued, much of it was for periods of time and today one can see Roman ruins in Scotland.


The Size And History Of the Fishbourne Roman Palace

The Fishbourne Roman Palace is the largest known Roman residence north of the Alps and is thought to date from as early as 75 AD. The Romans ruled Britain from 43 AD to 410 AD when they left to protect the core provinces of their slowly collapsing empire. That means it was likely built only around 30 years after the Roman conquest of Britain.

  • Built: Around 75 AD
  • Roman Britain: 43 AD to 410 AD

The full-sized palace replaced even earlier structures. It was built with four residential wings surrounding a formal courtyard garden of 250 by 320 feet (75 by 100 meters). The villa took around 5 years to complete. Exactly who the owner was, is something of a matter of some debate.

Naturally, being a Roman villa it had heated baths and other such facilities that the Romans were famous for. The villa was once a splendid palace complete with mosaic floors, under-floor central heating, and an integral bathhouse.

The two hundred year-long history of the villa came to an end around 270 AD when it was burnt down. It was abandoned thereafter. It was only rediscovered in the 60s and was literally saved from bulldozers.

  • 270 AD: Built Down And Abandoned
  • Discovered: Only Rediscovered In the 1960s

Related: Do The Baths Of England Live Up To The Hype? Here's What To Know

The Mosaics and Museum At The Villa

Over the course of the villa's long history, it saw a number of extensive alterations in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. In these alterations, many of the original black and white mosaics were overlaid with more sophisticated and colored mosaics - like the beautifully preserved Dolphin mosaic. The Dolphin mosaic depicts Cupid riding on a Dolphin.

The palace once included as many as 50 excellent mosaic floors.

Today one can look and marvel at the intricate mosaics that remain, but it is difficult to imagine the luxury that would have once surrounded the owners of this superbly lavish Roman villa.

  • Largest: The Mosaics Are The Largest Collection Of Mosaics In The UK

At the museum, one can see a model of what the villa would have looked like and get a sense of the former size and grandeur of the Roman villa.

Recreated Roman Gardens

Not only will one see a piece of Britain's ancient Roman history, but one will also see the stunning formal gardens that surround the archeological site. While the Roman villa may just be ruins today with little more than it intricate mosaics left, the Roman gardens have been recreated.

  • Gardens: The Earliest Gardens In The United Kingdom

These are a recreation of the earliest gardens found anywhere in the United Kingdom and they have been re-planted to their original plan.

The garden was elaborate. It had shaped beds for hedges and trees and fountains. There was a section that had an artificial terrace and another section towards that sea that was planted with a "natural" landscape with a pond, stream, trees, and shrubs.

Related: The Frontiers: These Are The Farthest Points The Romans Ever Got

Visiting The Fishbourne Roman Palace Today

Today much of the villa has been excavated and is now preserved from the weather. It is open to the public and there is an informative on-site museum. Note when planning, that the last admission is 30 minutes before closure.

  • Address: Roman Way, Chichester PO19 3QR

The site is just 1.5 miles from the town of Chichester and is accessible by car, public transport, and by bicycle


  • Adult: £12.00 ($15.00)
  • Child: £6.00 ($8.00) Aged 5 to 17 and Student

Fishbourne Roman Palace Opening Times:

  • 2nd January to 12th February: (10 am to 4 pm(weekends only
  • March to September: 10 am to 5 pm
  • February, October, and November: 10 am to 4 pm

Facilities include a lovely café for lunch and a gift shop with Roman-themed gifts. The site is also wheelchair friendly.