I hated history at school but loved reading about ancient civilisations at home. Ancient roman houses and Greek gods and goddesses were so interesting. So whenever there’s the opportunity to visit roman ruins I’m always interested to check them out. After our morning on West Wittering beach, I decided a detour was required to take in some culture with Fishbourne Roman Palace only a few minutes drive away, outside Chichester.
I have to admit to being a little let down when we turned up in the car park. From the outside it looked more like a school in a big car park, but inside it’s more than that by a long way. We stopped briefly for a cold drink at the café outside the actual museum before heading in.
Unfortunately N wasn’t really in a good frame of mind – my encouragement that seeing the roman palace would remind him of what he’s found out in Horrible Histories, but it seems that the Romans aren’t his favourite period! Shame, because he really liked Chedworth Roman Villa when we visited there. There is a free trail for children – for them to find the mosaics around the palace. I don’t think it would have been very easy, but I do like that so many places are making themselves more child friendly in trying to keep the children of all ages more entertained and interactive with the exhibits.
Thankfully there were plenty of real and copycat things for N to feel, play with and find out about in the beginning part which is like a museum.
I found it really interesting to look and read all the information while N did some colouring in of a roman soldier, and some weaving. It turns out N was keen on the weaving. He insisted on finishing all the ribbons off, in the right order and even corrected where one had gone a bit wrong. He was very proud of it and I had to take a photo for him to show his dad when he got home.
N also showed a bit of interest in an old well remains. It turns out he could compare it to a well he’s seen somewhere else, and decided he knew exactly how long it would have taken for people to build it.
I’d never heard of Fishbourne Roman Palace before, but it’s the largest roman palace found, built in the 1st century AD. The gardens have been replanted as they would have been back in the palace’s prime. It was a bit hot to be out walking in the garden, so we stuck to inside and looking at the mosaics and room layout.
The mosaics are numerous as expected in such a large building, and there’s variety in the patterns. It’s harder to see the differences between the rooms – it’s the mosaics that have been reinstated and repaired, while the walls and any internal features are harder to see. We could just about imagine the central heating system, some of the pipe work, and the baths.
There were further learning areas around the building to find out more, and the day we were there, staff were doing a ‘hold the artifacts session’. We didn’t go into the short film which was on – suitable for all the family. From the Sussex Archaeological Society website, there was plenty of family activities and talks going on over the school holidays.
We only spent an hour or so there which was plenty for N. But there was certainly more we could have seen, and at around £15 for the 2 of us, the price wasn’t too bad. If you’re passing or your children are learning about the Romans at school it’s worth a visit.
Have you ever been to Fishbourne Roman Palace before? Or can you recommend any other Roman sites to visit?
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