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Fishbourne was an exceptionally early, large, and luxurious Roman villa or ‘palace’. One mile west of Chichester, the site at the head of Chichester harbour was first occupied by a supply base of the invasion period. In the Neronian period the first stone civil buildings were constructed. The Flavian ‘palace’ covered 10 acres with dependencies. It consisted of four carefully planned ranges enclosing a central area with a formal Roman garden. The entrance-hall was in the centre of the east range and box-edged walkways led to the formal reception room in the centre of the raised west range. The north range and the northern part of the east range (now open to the public) were constructed round a series of internal courtyards, perhaps suites for guests or parts of the family. The south range, with a prospect over the sea, was probably the principal residence, though now inaccessible to archaeology. The Mediterranean-style complex and decoration (black-and-white mosaics, stucco-work) were unique in late 1st-cent. Britain. The complex declined through the 2nd and 3rd cents., though still a comfortable villa. It was destroyed by fire in the late 3rd cent.

Alan Simon Esmonde Cleary

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