CHICHESTER’S rich Roman heritage is on display in a new £7m museum which is expected to attract visitors from across the country.
The Novium, in Tower Street, has been purpose-built to show the remains of a Roman bath house, which are now uncovered for visitors to see for the first time since they were discovered in 1970.
Until now they lay preserved under a car park but have been painstakingly excavated for the public to enjoy once again.
The baths have been brought to life with a giant computer-generated screen which displays images above the remains.
The Novium, designed by award-winning architect Keith Williams, is a modern building which offers a remarkable window into times under Roman rule in Britain between the 1st and 4th centuries AD.
Tracey Clark, museum manager, described it as an experience of a lifetime for the team who have spent the past few months carefully transplanting material from the old Chichester Museum, in Little London.
She added: ‘For me, there’s a wonderful feeling that with these new displays there’s a sense you are in fact seeing these items for the very first time.
‘There are also items we have had in our collection for maybe 40 or 50 years, but the public will never have properly had the chance to see.’
There were more than 250,000 artefacts to choose, including fragments of some of the earliest-known human habitation to be discovered in the area, through to memorabilia from the past 100 years, including items salvaged from Chichester’s market.
Other highlights include the Chilgrove villa mosaic which dates from the 1st century AD, and the Jupiter Stone which is believed to be from the original Roman forum in Chichester.
The Novium opens Sunday at 10am.
Gossip and business deals at bath houses
The Roman bath house would have been used as a meeting place for citizens to take part in leisure activities and perhaps also to talk business. It would have been an active and noisy place, full of chatter and gossip, where games might be played, books read and beauty treatments enjoyed.
Many visitors would have hired slaves to look after their belongings.