diamond geezer

 Friday, November 27, 2009

An alphabetical journey through the capital's museums
Crofton Roman Villa

Location: Crofton Road, Orpington, BR6 8AF [map]
Open: Wed & Fri 10-1 & 2-5, Sun 2-5 (Apr-Oct only)
Admission: £1
Brief summary: mid-suburban Roman remains
Website: http://cka.moon-demon.co.uk/villa.htm
Time to set aside: half an hour

[In a brilliant piece of planning, I visited today's museum in October before it closed down for the winter. In a none-too-brilliant bit of timing, you won't be able to visit today's museum until Easter. So don't get too excited by what follows]

Crofton Roman VillaLondon was once a Roman stronghold, but the centre of the City has been so wholly and utterly developed over the centuries that barely any trace remains. Modern London boasts just one Roman villa open to the public, and that only because the boundaries of the capital have been stretched out to encompass chunks of Kent. Originally a remote rural farmstead, it's now conveniently located immediately adjacent to Orpington station. Ideal for commuting, if only the former residents had hung around for long enough.

The first modern Britons to uncover Crofton Roman Villa were Victorian navvies working on a railway cutting. There were no preservation orders in those days, nor was there any knowledge of what was being churned up, so a large part of the foundations were irrevocably lost. Wiser workmen laying driveways for new council offices in 1926 quickly realised that they were carving through Roman remains, but archaeological interest was lacklustre and yet more damage was done. Only in 1988, when the council planned to raze the area for a car park, did the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit step in. They excavated what was left, then built a protective shed around the site, and the public are now invited inside to view what they managed to save.

Crofton Roman VillaFrom Crofton Road, the bland municipal exterior looks like it might hold a youth club, swimming pool or church hall. Indeed no expense has been wasted outside - this is simply a big shed containing Roman leftovers. No permanent staff are employed, just a group of kindly volunteers who give up their time in case any members of the public might open the door and step inside. I would have had the entire place to myself, but a well-intentioned local parent had hired the villa for their child's birthday party and so a crowd of well-behaved under-10s were quietly assembling mosaics on a trestle table.

My volunteer guide, having swapped one pound coin for a quaint old admission ticket, gave me a quick rundown of the history of the place. The villa was owned by well-to-do farmers in around the 2nd-4th centuries AD, and stood on a ridge above the fertile banks of the River Cray (now culverted beneath Orpington's main shopping street). Of the 20 rooms thought once to exist, remnants of at least 10 survive - all at foundation level. Don't come expecting grand walls and tessellating pavements, although there is plenty of ancient brick infrastructure and also some illustrative reconstructed tiling. Here context is key, with labels and plans aplenty to explain what everything in front of you used to be. But best to hear it all from the guide ("that bit used to be the hypocaust - you know what a hypocaust was don't you?"). Mine confessed to being a retired teacher, in common with many of the other volunteers here, and her enthusiasm and expertise were put to good use.

Crofton Roman VillaI managed to explore the fenced-off perimeter of the Roman remains whilst carefully avoiding getting too close to the assembled birthday crowd. They were still busy mosaicing while I perused the "touch table" of genuine ancient stuff and the sandtray in which children pretend to be archaeologists. Then we swapped places, and I went to stand on the raised platform at the rear while they went to sit in the dressing-up corner. I earned a different perspective on the old villa, including a close up of where the underfloor central heating used to be, while the kids were held distantly spellbound by a selection of animal bones.

This is a defiantly low-key attraction, with the emphasis very much on archaeology rather than entertainment. The admission charge is merely tokenistic and couldn't possibly support the building's upkeep. The bookshop contains dense volumes solely of local interest rather than popular sciency tomes. And the Roman remains themselves require not inconsiderable amounts of visualisation, far exceeding the passive spoonfeeding most tourists seem to desire. Oh that there were more London museums like this, ploughing their own specialist furrow with love, care and conviction.
by train: Orpington

V is also for...
» Valence House Museum (closed for refurbishment until May 2010)
» Vestry House Museum (in Walthamstow Village)
» Victoria & Albert Museum (I've been) (who hasn't?)
» Vinopolis (expensive swilling joint)

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards