Roman mosaic of international importance saved for the Nation!

Dorset County Museum has been successful in its appeal to raise £150,000 pounds to save and display the Dewlish mosaic.
The 1,600-year-old Roman floor panel showing a leopard attacking an antelope was unearthed by a team of archaeologists at Dewlish in 1974. The mosaic, measuring 2m by 2.4m, was discovered in the grounds of Dewlish House and formed part of the flooring of a villa.

Conservator, Riva Boutylkova; Museum Director, Jon Murden and Museum Technician, Mark Pettit inspect the mosaic on arrival at the museum

This acquisition reunites the new panel with two other fragments from the same mosaic which are already cared for by Dorset County Museum.

This purchase was made possible due to nearly 100 donations from supporters both large and small. Key donations received include £50,000 from the Arts Council England/ V&A Purchase Grant Fund, £40,000 from Art Fund, £30,000 from the Headley Trust, and £10,000 from the Association for Roman Archaeology. Further support was given by many other organisations and individuals from Dorset and further afield, including Richard Beleson, a San Francisco-based benefactor who is passionate about keeping Roman artefacts on public display in the areas from which they come.

The mosaic had been subject to an export bar imposed by the UK Government to help prevent objects of national importance from leaving the country. The bar that was due to expire on the 16th of October last year, was granted an extension to January this year after the museum made its intentions known to buy the mosaic.
This historic piece will now be on show to the public in the new galleries of the museum as part of the £16.1 million redevelopment opening later this year.

Dr Jon Murden, Dorset County Museum Director said: I’m delighted that through a true collaborative effort between Dorset County Museum, the export licensing team at Arts Council England, a wide range of funding bodies, archaeological organisations, and the local community, we have been able to save the Dewlish Mosaic for the nation, and for the people of Dorset. It’s been a privilege to work alongside all these people on this most vital acquisition. I’m delighted that, once cleaned and conserved, it will take pride of place within the restored historic stairwell at Dorset Museum – alongside the other internationally significant Roman mosaics that are already in our collection in Dorchester.

Dr Clare Randall, archaeologist and Vice-Chairman of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society said: We are delighted to be able to retain the Leopard and Gazelle mosaic from Dewlish villa within the area from which it originated. The mosaic is not only beautiful, and one of the finest examples of figure work from Roman Britain, but it is part of the story of the Dewlish villa and its inhabitants. There were people living in Roman Dorset with wealth, connections and exquisite artistic taste, and it is objects like this that give us a chance to glimpse their lives.

Julia Brittell from The V&A Purchase Grant Fund said: The Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund is delighted to be able to support Dorset County Museum’s acquisition of the Dewlish mosaics. It is particularly pleasing that Dorset County Museum pursued this acquisition because it is undoubtedly the best home for this nationally significant mosaic where it will join other mosaic fragments and the rest of the archaeological archive from this important site.

Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund said: Art Fund is so pleased to help save for the nation this exceptional mosaic, which constitutes a critical part of Dorset’s heritage. This rare surviving fragment is now safeguarded for future generations, and I’m sure will enthral visitors once the museum can open its doors once again later in the year. Thanks to the generosity of its 159,000 members, Art Fund is able to help fund acquisitions like this one, supporting the development of collections during this very challenging time for museums.

Anthony Beeson from the Association for Roman Archaeology said: The exceptional quality of the mosaic, its importance in the history of British art, and the exciting educational prospects that its presence in the museum will engender, convinced the members of the Board of Trustees of the Association for Roman Archaeology to award our largest single grant ever awarded. The grant of £10,000 will go towards educational projects, training, conservation and the display of the mosaic.

  • If you would like to know more about this mosaic and others found during the excavations a monograph “Dewlish Roman Villa, Dorset – Bill Putnam’s Excavations 1969-1979 by Iain Hewitt, Maureen Putnam, Jonathan Milward and Jonathan Monteith” has been published by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. To find out how to purchase a copy CLICK HERE


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