Town’s historic mosaic moved to new home

IT is one of the historical gems of Britain’s oldest recorded town but now a stunning Roman mosaic is being taken apart and will be moved to a new home.

The Berryfield Mosaic dates back to around AD 150 and currently is in the well house of Colchester Castle Museum.

However, when the mosaic was first unearthed in 1923 it was on the land where the new firstsite gallery now lies.

The gallery is set to open next September by which time the Berryfield Mosaic will have been painstakingly dismantled, cleaned and returned back to its old home where it will be an integral part of building with people able to walk over it thanks to a reinforced glass cover.

The mosaic was originally part of the dining room floor in a Roman townhouse and has an intricate design of flowers and sea monsters chasing dolphins.

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In the castle it is displayed vertically but work is now underway to take it to pieces because it is too large to fit out of the door.

Work to move and conserve the mosaic has now started and the public are invited to witness the rare opportunity to see the painstaking process.

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Conservators from Cliveden Conservation will take the mosaic to their Berkshire workshop where it will cleaned and a new lightweight backing attached to hold the mosaic together.

The mosaic will then be re-installed in the centre of firstsite’s building in February next year and will be the only permanently displayed work in the building.

Katherine Wood, firstsite’s director said: “We are delighted that the move has started and that we are able to offer the opportunity for visitors to Colchester to see this delicate work taking place.

“In Britain’s oldest recorded town, you would imagine opportunities to see conservators at work would be two-a-penny but work like this is extremely rare and at times may be ground-breaking.”

Nick Barlow, in charge of economic development, culture and tourism at Colchester Borough Council, added: “This is a once in a generation opportunity to see these techniques in action, we can’t wait to see the mosaic restored to its former glory and its new home will provide a fitting context.”

A team from firstsite is currently working on newly-researched interpretation and explanation of the mosaic’s context and significance for Colchester.

There will be a talk for the public at the Castle on Tuesday at 3pm when heritage manager and archaeologist Philip Wise from the Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service and the team from Cliveden Conservation will talk about the mosaic and the process involved in its move.

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to see the restoration of Berryfield Mosaic as it takes place. Colchester has a fascinating history, and the Berryfield Mosaic gives us a glimpse into the town’s Roman heritage.

“By returning the mosaic to its original location, within the wonderful surroundings of the firstsite building more people will have the chance to enjoy this important local heritage treasure - both now and for generations to come.”

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