After strolling through The Newt estate, swap your mud boots for the museum’s Roman sandals and step back in time. The introductory film projected on a 180° screen transports you to the year 351 CE – the height of the Roman occupation of England. Further on, you will discover what daily life in Britain looked like in those days. Audio stories and interactive games reveal how the Romans worked, lived, judged and gambled. And visitors can embody the life of a Roman Britain by participating in a wedding ceremony, designing a coin or experimenting with a new hairstyle.
The Newt in Somerset, Castle Cary (UK)
In Somerset, the excavation of the fourth-century Roman Villa Ventorum is the basis for a new cultural experience: the Roman Villa Museum. Most of the villa remains underground. A small part has been excavated and can be admired in the museum, which is built around this piece of the ruin.
How does your life compare to that of a Roman in Britain 1600 years ago? You’ll find out at the Roman Villa Museum. It consists of two parts: a museum full of information and original objects and a reconstruction of the Villa Ventorum.
Countless stories lie within the museum’s white walls, waiting to be unearthed. The more you explore, the more layers you discover. These stories come to life as you move through the museum: your presence activates the films, animations, location-controlled audio stories and interactive games. Vistas and viewing houses invite visitors to discover the information for themselves. The walls also house archaeological evidence from the original villa, such as the mosaic floor. When you enter the Villa Ventorum after your museum visit, you will see reconstructions of this mosaic floor and other artefacts in their original contexts.
The museum is an introduction to the Villa Ventorum (villa of the winds), a life-size reconstruction of the fourth-century dwelling. Inside, it’s as if the residents could appear at any moment: the bathtub is full of water, and the fire burns. The fire’s warmth, smoking oil lamps and herbaceous scents create a sensory experience that brings the ancient past to the present.
The villa’s location-controlled audio tour, which we developed with Lucy Jago and Usomo, seamlessly integrates sounds and stories as visitors tour the villa. Scampering mice, running water and inside information about life on the estate from the housekeeper immerse visitors within the estate’s environment. In the audio tour, the housekeeper talks about the party that will take place that evening. The visitors are also invited: using VR glasses, they mingle and party with the exuberant Roman guests.
Built with authentic materials and techniques, the villa is the most extensive Roman reconstruction of its kind in Great Britain. The villa is our representation of life in Roman times. As curators of the museum and villa, we worked with Southwest Heritage and other historians, archaeologists and experts in ancient plumbing to develop the experience’s content. We translated their knowledge and advice into video productions, audio tours, interactive games, display cases and narration – bringing Roman Britain to life for visitors.