Gift of Mr and Mrs Bruce Horn
P&EE 1989 11-11 1
Room 49: Roman Britain
Section of façade from a Roman building at Meonstoke
Roman Britain, early 4th century AD
Meonstoke, Hampshire, England
This is a section of the façade of an aisled barn-like building on a villa estate in the parish of Meonstoke, Hampshire. It was excavated by King Alfred's College, Winchester and lifted by The British Museum in 1989. The façade was constructed in the early fourth century AD. We know that it collapsed some time after AD 353, as that is the latest date of the coins found underneath.
Archaeologists have been able to reconstruct the whole building in great detail from the study of the remains and where they lay.
The building and its elevations were laid out in Roman feet, the pes Monetalis (29.6 cm). It was 50 pM in width and probably around 40 pM in height. The design, with clerestory windows and a blind arcade above (the section shown here), is elaborate and colourful, in the late Antique taste. The greenstone capitals are of the Ionic order, a volute just surviving on the right-hand example. Flints are used to create a rusticated effect, and there were projecting tile cornices over both the windows and arcade.
Although the building is certainly secular in purpose, it does foreshadow the elevation of many Romanesque churches of the early Middle Ages (eleventh and twelfth centuries). It is possible, therefore, that this ecclesiastical tradition had its origins in Roman vernacular architecture of northern Europe. The holes cut through the façade (by this time laying flat on the ground) mark the foundations for a wooden structure of the early Anglo-Saxon period, erected in the fifth or sixth centuries AD.
T.W. Potter, Roman Britain, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)