Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians
Aerial reconstruction of Silchester © Historic England Archive.

Willis Museum, Basingstoke Celebrates 50 Years of Archaeology at Silchester

Roman Silchester, or Calleva Atrebatum as the Romans called the town, is one of England’s important archaeological sites. The site first came to our attention in 1866 when the Reverend James Joyce found the so-called Silchester eagle, now in the Reading Museum. More recently, since 1974 Professor Michael Fulford from the University of Reading has lead a series of excavations on almost all aspects of the site. To mark the 50 years of this research, a temporary exhibition, Becoming Roman – Silchester, a Town of Change, is currently being hosted by the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery in Basingstoke, Hampshire.
Aerial reconstruction of Silchester © Historic England Archive.
An artist's impression of what Silchester might have looked like from above. © Historic England Archive

“Becoming Roman – Silchester, a Town of Change contains so many objects that give us a frozen moment in time; from a footprint on a drying floor tile to hairpins lost in the Roman baths and coins dropped in the forum. These little, everyday occurrences and misfortunes allow us to connect emotionally with the daily life someone living thousands of years ago.”

Nick Suffolk, Head of Heritage Experience at Hampshire Cultural Trust

What to Expect?

A Roman ceramic storage jar has been pieced together from the fragments found by archaeologists at Silchester.
A grain storage vessel that that been reconstructed from the fragments recovered during excavations at Silchester.
An articulated skeleton of a dog excavated by archaeologists at Silchester.
The skeletal remains of a dog.
Various complete vessels and fragments of ceramic vessels from Silchester displayed in a glass case.
Roman pottery.
A near perfectly polished stone axe from the Neolithic period, excavated at Silchester.
A Neolithic polished stone axe.

Planning Your Visit

“It is wonderful to contribute to an exhibition which showcases some of the great discoveries from the University of Reading's excavations at Silchester. The objects on display range from those illustrating the international contacts of the Iron Age town beneath the Roman to those that show how life changed after the Roman conquest.”

Professor Michael Fulford of the University of Reading

Add Silchester to Your Itineraries & Travel Lists

Roman Silchester – Calleva Atrebatum

The completely buried remains of the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum, near present day Silchester, are still surrounded by what are considered to be some of the best preserved Roman town walls in England. Originally an Iron Age oppidum, the settlement was first occupied by Romans in about 45 AD and then abandoned by the 5th century. Outside the polygonal walls a relatively well preserved, albeit overgrown with trees and shrubbery, amphitheatre can be visited. There is a car park at St Mary’s church, from where it is easy to visit the amphitheatre and see the walls.

Willis Museum & Sainsbury Gallery

In a building and location rich in history, visitors can learn more about the history of Basingstoke and surrounding area. The Archaeology Galley has exhibits spanning a period from the Stone Age to Saxon England, and includes a mammoth tusk and artefacts from Roman Silchester. The story of Basingstoke covers the medieval to post War period – on display is a 1950s kitchen and what is said to be the world’s oldest wedding cake, having been created in 1898 it is now well over a hundred years old.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Ethan Doyle White

When not exploring archaeology and history sites at home and abroad, and then writing about these for Archaeology Travel, I research religion in early medieval England and contemporary uses of heritage. In 2019 I completed a PhD in medieval history and archaeology from University College, London. Read More

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