years ago, when I had the desire to be a “reporter,” I was fortunate enough
to visit the Roman remains at Rudston. I say “reporter,” because the word
“journalist” was far too up-market for the likes of me.
I spent a mere few weeks with the editorial department of the Driffield
Times, when Winston Halstead, formerly editor and publisher of Yorkshire
Ridings, was editor.
The fact that that period was the last and only time spent in any editorial
department is by the by.
Now, following a
working life in the production of newspapers and magazines, the urge to
write and “report” has come to the fore.
Among the mass of papers and photographs I have accumulated are photographs
I took of the Roman remains in the early Sixties.
what were the Roman remains at Rudston?
On 26th April 1933, Henry Robson unearthed some fragments of stone while
ploughing a field at Breeze Farm, south of the road between Rudston and
On investigation, they were discovered to be part of a tessellated pavement
of Roman origin. Eighteen inches below the surface, further tiles were
located, which were found to be part of three mosaic pavements. After
further investigation, part of a central heating system – called a hypocaust
– was found. This structure carried hot air under the floors of Roman
work uncovered the foundations of the buildings themselves, and among them
was a workshop, with neat piles of mosaics.
Two of the pavements were found to be in remarkably good condition. The
smallest of the three, which became known as the Fish Pavement, was badly
damaged by the plough. The remains show it to be similar to the others.
“Tessellated” means “mosaic,” and that is precisely how the pavements were
made. Small piece of stone were cut into cubes and laid together to form
patterns and pictures. Chalk provided the white stones, blues and greys came
from the nearby beaches at Bridlington, while reds and oranges were from
tiles made on the site. Other colours, browns and yellows, would have been
brought from other parts of the countryside.
150 square feet in area, the first pavement is supposed to have been in a
room about 20ft by 16ft. The centre of the design shows Venus wearing two
armlets and holding an apple in her right hand. She has just dropped her
mirror at the appearance of a “merman” carrying a five-pronged fork.
In the corners of this pavement are long-tailed birds (see picture above),
pecking at fruit, while along the sides are animal designs including a stag
in a pine forest, a spotted leopard, a wounded lion and a bull. The bull has
an inscription which reads “Taurus Homicida” (this is translated as
See picture below.
A centre design of circle, semi-circles and quarter circles has four spaces
in which huntsmen appear. One of these disappeared due to the plough.
(see top two photos) is of purely geometric design, filling a 12ft
square. There is a central panel in red, white and blue. The border consists
of two broad blue stripes on a white background. Within this is a wide inner
border of double Greek key-pattern, also in blue on a white ground. This
pavement is very similar to the one found at Harpham in 1904.
At some time in the early sixties, if my memory is correct, the Driffield
Times carried a feature about the Roman villa.
was at this time that the pavements were being removed from Rudston to go on
display in Hull. Mr John Bartlett, then Director of Hull Museums, painted
several coats of plastic on top of the mosaics. Sacking was then placed over
that, and this covered with more plastic coating.
The pavements were then lifted in sections and reassembled guided by
drawings by Mr David Neil, at the time an illustrator with the Ministry of
Works. Mr Neal regarded the Venus and Fish pavements as very fine examples
of mosaics, which did not follow classical design, but incorporated the
ideas of the craftsmen who built them. The centre mosaic, he thought, was
rather crude as the stones it comprises are much larger.
Hull & East Riding Museum now displays these pavements and the Roman villa
at Rudston can now be enjoyed by everyone, about 1,600 years after they were
first created. Hull and East Riding Museum is at 36 High Street, Hull HU1
It is open
Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday 1.30pm to 4.30pm. Last admission is
30 minutes prior to closing. Free admission.
To find the Museum on the internet go to
www.hullcc.gov.uk, and click on Museum Collections. Then click on
Museums under the pictures. Click on Hull and East Yorkshire Museum to read
about the Museum generally. Under Image Gallery 2, find Rudston Mosaics and
there is a photograph of one of the mosaic pavements.
may be able to find a copy of The Roman Villa at Rudston by F. R. Pearson,
M.A., on the internet. This was written in May 1938. Mr Pearson was the
author’s history master at Bridlington School 1948-1952.
There are publications
from the Yorkshire Geological Society available occasionally too.
All photographs are from the author’s original negatives, except the first
and third, which were postcards from originals by Dr J. L. Kirk.
An earlier version of this text appeared in Around the Wolds,