Conservators protect mosaics from builders at Chedworth Roman Villa
As Chedworth Roman Villa closes for the end of the season, builders are moving in to start work on a £3m development to protect the fragile remains and make them easier for visitors to see.
The last few large objects from the museum and other buildings at the villa are being packed away into long term storage and the newly uncovered mosaics are being protected under thick payers of insulation and timber to make sure they are not damaged over winter.
Work starts this month on the project to create new environmentally controlled conservation shelters over the mosaics to replace old Victorian sheds. The conservators have been busy ensuring the mosaics will be safe during the building work, which will mean they will be hidden again for a time.
The mosaics which were uncovered at Chedworth Roman Villa in the summer have been subject to specialist conservation work, ready to protect them when building work starts.
A team of National Trust experts have been cleaning and stabilising the mosaics and will be drawing up a plan to prepare them for display as part of the development of the villa.
When finished the new building will have walkways above the mosaics allowing visitors to look down on them more easily as well as interactive displays about life in Roman Britain. The project is set to go ahead thanks to a £700,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Conservator Chris Cleere said: ”We have cleaned the mosaics very thoroughly to bring them up to presentation standard and have looked at the damage they have, including loose tiles which make up the mosaic and possible subsidence which indicates there may be space under the floor, perhaps a hypocaust, a Roman heating system.
“Any loose tesserae – the tiles - have been secured temporarily in their correct position and we are now covering the mosaics again to protect them during the building work. They are still fragile at the moment so we have to make sure they will not be damaged during the building work.”
The mosaics have been covered with a permeable plastic material and a layer of special sand, recommended for covering archaeological sites without causing any damage. Once that is complete, a layer of thick insulation will be added to protect them from frost and them two layers of plywood.
“It is so the builders will be to have access to install the suspended walkways which will form part of the building and allow these mosaics to be seen properly alongside the original mosaics at Chedworth.”
Unfortunately all the mosaics will have to remain covered during the building work which will take until Spring 2012. The end result will be that, for the first time, all the mosaics will be able to be seen together.
“We will bring the new ones up to full display quality and we will do some gentle work on the original mosaics to bring them up to the same standards. There are some gaps which were filled with concrete. We will be treating those so everything will appear more as it would have done when the mosaics were first uncovered.. We want everything to look authentic. It will be a spectacular display and well worth the wait.”
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2 November 2010
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