Introducing the Villa

The museum preserves the West Range, built around AD300, which is the last and grandest of three buildings on the site. The foundations of two earlier North and South Ranges are now outlined in chalk outside. The South Range was erected around AD 100, not long after the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43 and was followed by the completion of the grander North Range around AD 200.

To see how the site and villa would have looked during the 400 years it was occupied watch our virtual CGI tour.

Since its re-discovery the villa and surrounding land have been excavated many times. Using artefacts and archaeological reports, the museum will take you on a tour from prehistory up to the modern day.

Why choose the site at Brading?

For those living here, this location was a perfect choice. It enabled the
 freedom to communicate with and travel to local Island settlements, mainland Britain and cross the Channel to Gaul (France).

Fertile arable lands around the Villa complex allowed good crops of grain to be grown. Sheep and cattle could fertilise the land between seasons and springs nearby gave a good water supply.

Isle of Wight Map_white

The West Range

By the early fourth century this high status house was completed. As a winged corridor villa, common in southern Britain, it provided separate private living accommodation for the owner and their family together with space for entertaining guests. Like modern homes today the West Range had many changes and adaptions to the living space. This included removing and moving internal walls and adding new mosaics.

Who lived here?

The ownership of the Villa estate may have remained in the same family 
through the generations or changed many times. At its height during the 4th century it was home to a family of wealth and importance. Who any of them were however, is a mystery.

Myths and Legends

Roman mythologies were often based on the traditional stories of Rome’s origins and religious system. Often believed as fact, even when they had supernatural elements, many stories included moral and political issues.


The best known story of Medusa was written in AD 8 by Ovid a Roman poet. One of three sisters known as the Gorgons, Medusa was originally a beautiful maiden, but because she wooed Poseidon inside Minerva’s temple, the furious Minerva transformed her hair into serpents and made her face so terrible that one look would turn the viewer to stone.

The Medusa at Brading is believed to ward off evil and protect the home.

Conserving the mosaics

In 1982 the Bacchus mosaic needed urgent repair. Conservators coated the mosaic in polyvinyl acetate (PVA glue) and bonded the surface with strong cloth. It was lifted in sections, a mortar bed was laid and the mosaic was placed back into its original position. This is the only mosaic to have been treated in this way. The rest of the floors and mosaics are still in situ on their original foundations.

Lifting the bacchus mosaic in 1982
Conservation work on room 12 after flooding in 1994

In January 1994 the Villa was flooded and the floors were submerged under water contaminated with agricultural fertilizer.

After the flooding the Edwardian cover building was considered unfit to protect the villa. The Oglander Roman Trust, set up to conserve the site, was successfully awarded a grant to construct a new building over the Villa remains. The visitor centre was built in 2004, and the mosaics have slowly dried out.

Flood damage to the floors and mosaics in 1994
Flood damage to the floors and mosaics in 1994 2

Victorian discovery

In 1880, retired army Captain John Thorp and farmer William Munns uncovered the Bacchus mosaic. The discovery was widely reported both locally and nationally. After Captain Thorp began to excavate, interest in the villa led Lady Oglander of Nunwell to buy the land.

Once the villa was excavated a cover building was erected for protection to allow visitors to view the remains. One famous visitor was Queen Victoria who was presented with tiles from the hypocaust. They were put on display in the museum at Osborne House.

The Big Digs between 2008 and 2010 re-excavated the North and South Ranges, which added to the original findings of 1880. Victorian artefacts were also uncovered, including glass bottles, leather shoes and even a baby’s dummy!

The Bacchus Mosaic 2