The mosaic was believed to be the work of the Saltire
School based in Corinium, now known as Cirencester. The main characteristics
of these designs are large squares and saltires (St Andrew's crosses),
with central roundals. The mosaic is multi-coloured or polychrome
(Poly = many, from the Greek polus - much and chrome from
Greek khroma - colour). The use of the various tones of
blue, white, buff and brown, and the red of the terracotta, gave
The southerly end almost 7m x7m and the north end 4.5m x 4.5m. The
design at first glance seems symmetrical but gradually it becomes
apparent that that is not the case.
The largest and best preserved area is in the south. The outer border
is as elsewhere, set with the larger tesserae, within which the
main decorative panel was placed. I will describe it as approached
in the way of a visitor walking through the ante chamber and moving
towards the south. On your left there is a fish heading south (sadly
much of the body missing) within the leaf and guilloche border.
Larger tesserae block. Photo Nicholas
first of the fine tesserae form a wider band around the whole of
that part of the room. Both panels are surrounded by a band of ‘cornice’
or egg and dart motif. This series of circles, here separated by
‘apple-core’ shapes, each contains a heart-shape leaf. The leaves
are alternately inward and outward pointing. Within this band a
further boarder and the first of the guilloche (a plait or braid).
This one appears double stranded.
Photo Nicholas Durnan
With the exception of this border, the design lacks symmetry, although
the geometry remains important for our understanding of how the
design was laid out.
Sixteen squares together form a
square panel filling most of the
area. Use this diagram as a
reference to the following
This star also occurs in A2, C2, B1 and B3 A2 and C2 contained a
flower with 8 petals, B1 and possibly B3 a fan flower to shape.
The image that we chose to reconstruct, the cantharus (2 handled
drinking vessel), can be found at A3. C1 is the same except its
mouth faces north.
A cantharus. Photo Nicholas
A saltire. Photo Nicholas Durnan
A1 also contains a saltire at the centre of which is a flower
with smaller petals toward the points of the compass. This is enclosed
in a border of darker blue triangles as pointers, aiming towards
the SW and NE corner. There is just enough of this border in C3
to suggest that it is repeated.
Lozenge shape found in the mosaic
Each pair are similar.
Some with a leaf and an inverted one together.
Double heart. Photo Nicholas
Photo Nicholas Durnan
The double heart - some with a simple intertwined pair of links- a
guilloche knot with a leaf tip at each apex. Some have diamonds and
triangles or hour glass forms, others split squares and one a meander.
Meander. Photo Nicholas Durnan
In B3 the middle panel is a saltire, pointing towards the corners
of the room. It is centred by a roundel with an indefinable middle.
The L shape formed by line D1-D4 and to A4 has some of the other motifs
included and some new. D1 shows a half of an interlinking square star
of double cord guilloche and in the space contained within, a half
octagon with three heart-shaped leaves pointing towards a half circle.
Photo English Heritage Photogrammetry
3 cord guilloche plait. Photo Nicholas Durnan
The dolphin. Photo Nicholas Durnan
D2 appears have contained what is also in B4, a rectangle containing
a 3 cord guilloche plait, flanked by two sets of lozenges, as two
cubes or perspective boxes set together.
In D3 the image that was flashed across the world by the world press,
the dolphin swimming west.
the south west corner a cube had on its 'flat' surface a guilloche
knot with hour glasses on the lozenges. Turning the corner to C2
the half octagon contains a cup from which spring two leaves, linked
by their stems.
B4 has been shown as D2 above and D 1 appears to be as A4.
Ante chamber Northern section of room 1
The ante chamber was badly damaged but has a scheme of irregular
octagons developing small squares. There is a recessed area to the
east, the wall following the line of the east wall in Room 1a. This
has a floor of the large tesserae. The mosaic in the south rectangle
links into a panel running north south. The ‘leaf in circle’
design continues as the boarder but the band of guilloche appears
to change from two strand to a four strand plait or guilloche.
To the south west of the panel is a small block of dark and light
grey checker pattern, there is a similar area in cream and blue
to the east and red and cream to the north. A segment of the umbrella
roundel was visible on the south and in-discernible to the south.
To the north west a half hexagon contains a half circle and a severely
damaged interior. To the east another roundel resembles the one
The narrow room 4 running to the west has a central panel that differs
from the other rooms in a number of respects. The side panels of
large creamy grey are wider throughout the preserved length. The
first border in finer tesserae is of blue triangles set in light
grey. A simple blue square at the eastern end contains an eight
point petalled flower but at its centre two interwoven links of
a guilloche knot. Beyond this to the west a larger area of meander
in dark blue and then finally to a square containing three (and
probably a fourth) heart-shaped leaves with stems to the corner.
It is believed that the pattern continued beyond the limits of