Priceless St Albans Roman mosaic, hidden under carpet for years, goes on display

Alban Arena, St Albans. Old Roman mosaic on show.

Alban Arena, St Albans. Old Roman mosaic on show. - Credit: Archant

A rarely seen priceless Roman mosaic described as St Albans’ “hidden city centre gem” is on display at a theatre.

Alban Arena, St Albans. Old Roman mosaic on show.

Alban Arena, St Albans. Old Roman mosaic on show. - Credit: Archant

But you will need to be quick to see it, as the nearly 2,000-year-old piece of history will be available for public viewing for less than a fortnight.

The mosaic, once the floor of a wealthy Roman’s villa, was found by archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler during a dig in the 1930s, on the site of the ancient Roman city of Verulamium, now St Albans.

However it was covered up and left buried at Verulamium Park until the late 1960s when, at the request of the local council, it was lifted out.

The 3.6 square metre mosaic was used to mark the 1968 opening of the newly built City Hall theatre - since renamed the Alban Arena.

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It was laid down in the foyer and put on display for three months, then covered over by a protective carpet where it has remained ever since, hidden from sight, for nearly five decades.

The mosaic was last briefly available for viewing in 2010, as part of Heritage Open Days in the area.

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At that time a local resident, Peter Wares, wrote to the Herts Advertiser to express his disappointment that “the council’s own hidden city centre gem” was not on display during special events in the city, despite assurances from the local authority at that time.

The council’s current portfolio holder for heritage, Cllr Annie Brewster, said: “In the longer term we have to move this mosaic for a permanent display rather than have it hidden from view, and we will be looking to raise funds to do that.”

• The exhibition takes place from Monday August 1 until Friday August 12, between 10am and 4pm, apart from Sunday August 7, when it will be closed.

• District archaeologist Simon West will give talks on August 3 and 5, from 2-4pm, with David Thorold, curator of collections at Verulamium Museum, discussing it on August 10 and 12, also from 2-4pm.

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