Dalton Parlours

Dalton Parlours, just near Wetherby, is the only ruin of a Roman villa excavated in the county. Originally discovered in 1854, it wasn’t until 1976 that a full-scale excavation took place, when evidence of Iron Age settlements was found alongside the extensive remains of a villa.

We know that the Villa was important because objects of silver were found there along with a painted wall and ceiling plaster. Some plaster from the ceiling at Dalton Parlours is on display at Leeds City Museum. It was pieced together from hundreds of tiny fragments which were found by archaeologists. The Villa lay in a good position near a major Roman road, linking Ilkley to Tadcaster. A Roman fort and vicus (town) at Newton Kyme were only 5km away.

Artist’s impression of what Dalton Parlours Villa may have looked like when first built by the Romans. Image © Leeds Museums and Galleries

A floor mosaic from the Villa was found in the 19th Century. It shows Medusa, a Greek and Roman mythical monster with living snakes for hair. It is now on display in the Yorkshire Museum in York. Other mosaic tiles ( tesserae) were found during the excavation, but no more complete mosaics. Copper alloy military equipment was found, as well as sixth legion stamped tiles. Archaeologists think that the tiles came from York because they are the same as ones found there. They think the Villa must have had a close connection with Eburacum (Roman York).

The internal walls of the Romano-British Dalton Parlours villa would likely have been richly decorated. The fragment of painted plaster shows some of the designs that were used on the walls. Can you spot the candlesticks in the pattern? © Leeds Museums and Galleries

The main building in the Villa was a winged corridor building. The Villa got bigger over time with extra rooms and buildings being added. The full plan shows two separate courtyards with a house and bath suite. This might mean that two families owned the site. Many of the rooms were hypocaust. This means they were heated under the floors with hot air. Other surrounding buildings were used for farming and crafts.

The Villa made money from grinding grain to make flour for bread. Cattle meat was also being produced, and sheep were kept for wool. The lands of the Villa extended several kilometres northwards, as far as the River Wharfe.

This fragment of a floor mosaic was found at Dalton Parlours and shows Medusa, a Greek and Roman mythical monster who had living snakes for hair. The mosaic is on display at the Yorkshire Museum in York. © York Museums Trust http://yorkmuseumstrust.org.uk/

Some time in the late 4th Century the Villa was deserted. The well was filled in deliberately to ensure it couldn’t be used again. Archaeologists believe there may also be ceremonial objects left in the well.

Fifteen human skeletons were also discovered during the excavation, including the skeleton of an adult male.

Information found at Mylearning.org

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