WORK has, at long last, commenced on the renovation of the widely-adored Roman villa at Butser Ancient Farm
The £2,000 that was generously donated in our crowdfunding campaign of last year is now being used to sandblast the heavy wooden beams over the half-term break.
Local workman John Grant and his assistant Toby Hoff from Airstrip will be working on the villa all week, sanding off the old beams to remove flaking paint and dirt, and reveaing the beautiful grain of the timbers beneath.
Built in 2003, the villa starred in the Rebuilding the Past documentary on the Discovery Channel, a show watched by thousands across the country.
The building is used for teaching children, special interest lectures, cookery workshops, archaeological research and as the headquarters of Butser’s own Roman re-enactment group.
The team is now raising money to renovate the villa to bring it back to its former glory as the home of a wealthy Roman Briton and his family.
The rest of the work will follow throughout the year and while the villa is closed for renovations there will be a special Roman Summer event throughout August to celebrate all things Roman. This will include Toga Tuesdays and a special Games Day with real fighting gladiators!
Director Maureen Page told me: ‘The villa was built as a replica, and was finished in 2003. Since then it has seen a tremendous amount of wear and it is looking a bit tired.
‘The villa is really important because it allows people to have an insight into what everyday life was like.
‘Many other places that have been preserved are special sites, like palaces and the like.
‘We also use the villa throughout the year – and not just for school visits or as part of regular tours of the farm.
‘It is a huge part of our Beltain festival which is a Celtic celebration at the beginning of summer. We’re planning to have as much of the work done as we can before then.’
In addition to sandblasting the wooden beams, Butser Ancient Farm will be improving the quality of the walls and adding fresco paintings to them – permanent decorations which were incredibly popular during the Roman era.
The farm will also be making facilities more accessible for disabled people by expanding the width of the door to the Roman villa.
The total cost of all planned renovations is £100,000.