Developers unearth 'intricate' Roman mosaic at proposed Aldi site in Milton Keynes

Buckinghamshire-based developer Angle Property, called in archaeologists after unearthing the ‘vibrant colours and intricate patterns’ at the site in Olney.
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A Roman villa mosaic has been uncovered at the site of a proposed new Aldi store in Milton Keynes.

Buckinghamshire-based developer Angle Property, called in archaeologists after unearthing the ‘vibrant colours and intricate patterns’ at the site in Olney.

Archaeologists suspect the remains of the floor would have been part of a large room in a high-status Roman villa which would have stood at what is now east of the Warrington Road.

The Oxford Archaeology team cleaning the mosaic. Picture by Angle Property.The Oxford Archaeology team cleaning the mosaic. Picture by Angle Property.
The Oxford Archaeology team cleaning the mosaic. Picture by Angle Property.

The mosaic, which was not entirely excavated, would have covered the entire floor but is best preserved along the borders. The uncovered sections, remarkably vibrant, show a blue and cream decoration on the outer border and a red, white, and blue pattern with typical Roman decorative elements in the infill.

Anthony Williamson, executive director and part owner of Angle Property, said: “We were aware of the archaeological potential of the site and so were happy to invest funds and set up arrangements to work constructively with Oxford Archaeology and Milton Keynes City Council (MKCC) to undertake a thorough and professional investigation.

“The mosaic find is amazing and has taken us all by surprise – this was not expected. The Roman mosaic adds to our knowledge and understanding of our history and it will be fully recorded and the information published in due course.

“I am grateful to Oxford Archaeology and the teams at both MKCC and English Heritage for their help and advice throughout this archaeological investigation.”

The development site in Olney. Picture Angle Property.The development site in Olney. Picture Angle Property.
The development site in Olney. Picture Angle Property.

Oxford Archaeology said Olney was already well known for Roman finds.

Senior project manager John Boothroyd, who oversaw work at the site, said: “Due to the site location we anticipated some notable Roman remains, but the discovery of this fantastic mosaic far exceeded those expectations.

“To be able to preserve remains of this quality and importance is a brilliant outcome, and one that could only have been achieved with the support of Angle Property.”

Following the initial discovery, archaeologists unearthed several stone structures they think might be cisterns for water collection and a part of a Roman bath house, a short distance from the villa site.

Members of the Oxford Archaeology team cleaning the border of the mosaic. Picture Angle Property.Members of the Oxford Archaeology team cleaning the border of the mosaic. Picture Angle Property.
Members of the Oxford Archaeology team cleaning the border of the mosaic. Picture Angle Property.

It’s thought part of the structure lies under the A509 so it cannot be investigated in full, but experts think the mosaic would have covered the entire floor of a large central room.

Roman mosaic expert David Neal, one of Britain’s foremost Roman mosaics experts, thinks the Warrington Road mosaic could belong to the Durobrivan group – inhabitants hailing from the walled Roman town known as Durobrivae - found in the eastern Midlands, due to its similarity to one found at Great Staughton in Cambridgeshire.

Consultations are taking place with Milton Keynes City Council and Historic England on the best way to preserve the important mosaic.

Plans for the new Aldi have been adjusted to make sure the mosaic will remain protected in consultation with English Heritage.

The discovery comes days after a work started to unearth a Roman mosaic buried under a pavement outside a vape shop in Colchester.

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