Back in 2011 Peterborough City Council sold the unused allotment land behind the park to Bellway Holmes, with the plan to build a housing estate. As part of the planning an Archaeological desktop survey was done, and no one expected to find anything. However, the City Archaeologist requested that 2 trial trenches be dug by Oxford Archaeology East.
After day 1 nothing was found, but by the end of day 2 there was great belief that what was found could possibly be the first Roman Villa to be found it Greater Peterborough in over 200 years.
What then followed was lots of conversation between Peterborough City Council, English Heritage and Bellway Homes (who had brought the land believing there to be nothing there). The result of these conversations was a 7 month long full excavation by the professional teams from Oxford Archaeology East, assisted by some enthusiastic locals who were able to get involved.
After the excavation was completed the finds were logged with Peterborough Museum and the report published and logged for future generations to know what was found. Bellway Holmes then build what is now the Mosaic Estate. (Rockbourne Place, Chedworth Close and Littlecote Grove)
Following on from the commercial excavations, Oxford Archaeology East’s Outreach officer started looking at the possibility of if there were parts of the villa remaining on the existing allotments to the south of the Bellway Mosaic Estate.
Starting with some test pitting exercises over the allotments with teams from Oxford Archaeology East, the Pearce and Hills Road schools as well as some allotment holders who were interested in what was on their site.
This then led to the Romans of Fane Road Project (ROFR) which was a joint venture between Oxford Archaeology East and Fane Road Allotment Association. The project was awarded a £88.2K grant Heritage lottery fund project to run a 18 month project. Throughout this time where were many talks, walks round local archaeological sites and a 20-day community excavation on the Fane Road allotment site when the general public could sign up and come and work with professional archaeologists to professional standards. The site was also visited by many schools and community groups.
At the end of the community excavation what was left was re-covered and the city archaeologist marked the site as of great importance and was keen for further investigation to take place.
As part of the ROFR project, illustrator Jon Cane made an artist model of what the villa could have looked like based on the actual archaeological findings of Oxford Archaeology East’s team. This was using things like the layout of the footings of the Villa and the width of the footings suggesting it may have been 2 stories high.
As part of the end of Romans of Fane Road project, there was a need to mark the community event. However, Heritage Lottery had no money for ongoing maintenance so the ROFR project approached The Friends of Itter Park to ask if they would be interested in taking care of 2 information boards to mark the findings both the 2011 excavations and the 2014 ROFR project.
The Friends agreed to take this on the 2 interpretation boards are now on the toilet block in Itter Park. (these were originally going to be on the other side of the palisade fencing on the allotments.)
The Friends for a long time had been looking for a feature to put on the rather bland toilet block wall and it was agreed that using an Image of the Villa was the best option we had received to date.
However, these plans were mothballed due to the removal of the park keeper in 2015 and concerns over vandalism.
Fast forward to 2021, and the Friends decided to unmothball the project and approached Nathan Murdoch of Street Arts Hire to implement the works for us. After many months of working with Peterborough city Council, The Friends are proud to see the original Jon Cane Image through the works of Nathan’s Street Arts Hire come alive on our toilet block to bring another feature to the park.
Thank you very much to both Peterborough City Council Environmental Services, Nathan of Street Arts Hire and Ward Cllr Simon Barkham for all their help and support in working with us to realise this long time goal.
This is the first of Nathan’s many projects that have been based on actual Archaeological findings
Further information about the Romans of Fane Road project can be found here. The Romans of Fane Road, Peterborough (oxfordarchaeology.com)