30 Jun 2018

Tags: Collections

In the Hampshire countryside you might not expect to stumble across towering walls of flint with tile coursing but these are the visible remains of the Roman town of Calleva. The Roman town, near Silchester, was abandoned after the Roman period and the site was never developed. The majority of objects in the Silchester Collection at Reading Museum came from excavations directed by the Revd James G. Joyce from 1864 to 1878 and by the Society of Antiquaries from 1890 to 1909, and are now displayed in the Silchester Gallery, Silchester Annexe and the Atrium.

Silchester Eagle
The iconic bronze eagle (museum number : 1995.4.1) found in the forum basilica by Revd Joyce on 9 October 1866

The Society uncovered the whole area within the town wall, about 40 hectares, revealing a regular street grid and building foundations. Therefore the excavations illustrate all aspects of town life – personal, social, religious, commercial and official. The range and variety of items bring the people of the past to life and provide opportunities for new research. It is the most important collection from a Roman town in Britain and is consulted widely by scholars from Britain and aboard.

Revd Joyce meticulously recorded his work in a three-volume Journal, which is now in the Museum's Collection.

Revd Joyce's Journal
A page from Revd Joyce’s Journal dated 9 May 1867 with illustrations and comments about a number of objects found during his excavation of the Forum complex.

The Collection also contains almost 600 photographs of the early excavations. These include the official site photographs and also more casual snapshots, often with personal comments on the back. Most images are of the Society of Antiquaries excavations but 27 are from earlier investigations by Joyce. These photographs are an invaluable pictorial record of how the excavations were undertaken and managed.

The Jubilee Pot
A photograph of the Jubilee Pot (museum number: 1995.1.88) in a wheelbarrow with a group of the excavators (museum number: 2002.34.109)

The site continues to be excavated and studied by the University of Reading increasing knowledge about the Iron Age origins of the site and the trade links of the people that lived there.