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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

The Roman Painted House

The north-west corner of Room 2.
The excavations of 1971 and 1972 revealed parts of the south and west ranges of a  substantial house, built of bricks and flint and consisting of at least six rooms, believed to  have been constructed around AD 200. The rooms had floors of red mortar and the larger  rooms had an under-floor heating system, or hypocaust. The internal walls of all the rooms had brightly coloured wall paintings on their plaster  walls. It is the survival of these wall paintings that makes the house so remarkable, they  are the best preserved in Britain, or almost anywhere outside Rome or Pompeii. The house  may have been part of a mansio, which was an inn or guesthouse for travellers. It was the fate of the house which led to survival of the paintings. When the Roman Army  came to build the Saxon Shore Fort around AD 270 the house lay on the line of the western  wall of the fort. The military engineers simply smashed through the west end of the house  and built the great stone wall of the fort right across it from north to south. 
Detail of the wall painting on the west wall of Room 2.
The back wall of the fort was then covered by a high bank of clay and rubble to form a rampart  bank. It was this quick demolition and burial of  the wall paintings, while still in good condition,  which led to their survival. The Roman Painted House is now displayed in a  purpose built building just off the Market  Square.  You can find a link to their website on  our links page.  
A reconstruction of Room 2. Back to Roman Index