A HISTORY group is bidding to keep a Roman mosaic in its village after archaeologists uncovered the artwork in a huge villa complex.

The fascinating discovery was made during a routine site excavation of Deanfield Homes’ 26-home Deanfield Grove housing development in Tackley, near Woodstock, earlier this year.

Archaeologists found the mosaic, measuring roughly 5m x 4.5m, within the villa, which has several rooms and corridors and could date back to the third century.

The item would usually be donated to a museum, but after it attracted significant attention from residents the Tackley Local History Group is fighting for the mosaic to stay in the village permanently.

Following support from Thames Valley Archaeological Services (TVAS), who performed the excavation and first suggested the artwork stay in Tackley, a committee is working through the feasibility of the idea.

Committee member John Perkins, who is also the history group’s chair, believes the interest in the mosaic is evidence of a growing curiosity for the village’s past.

He said: “When the mosaic was discovered and the possibility was raised of it being kept here we leapt at the chance.

“New houses will mean the population of the village increases so we need to ensure there’s continuity.

“One of the ways of doing this is celebrating the history and heritage.

“I’m hoping the interest in history and the possibilities for learning is something they will be keen on.”

TVAS carried out the dig between last November and July this year at the village-centre site.

The team could not believe it when they uncovered the 30m x 18m villa alongside another building with several rooms, which are believed to have been inhabited in the third of fourth century.

Mr Perkins, a former history lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, said: “It indicates the area around Tackley was well-populated during the Roman times.

“The best equivalent is a small 18th century residence with a home farm.

“It probably wasn’t owned by a wealthy landowner but someone of middling status.”

Archaeologists organised two open days for members of the public to view the findings, with several hundred people attending in total.

But David Sanchez, project officer of the excavation, revealed they nearly missed the complex completely.

He said: “We knew there was a Roman site there but we didn’t expect everything that we found.

“It’s a relatively rare find as usually a Roman villa would be protected before any development can happen.

“The location of the trenches was really unlucky because three avoided the buildings and the other only revealed the corner.”

Despite the find, Deanfield Homes pressed ahead with the development and the first houses are available to reserve this month.

The mosaic committee is currently putting together its feasibility study, which will be proposed to the village in December.

With residents set to decide the artwork’s future, the local history group is currently pushing Tackley’s past.

The group has become increasingly active in recent years, conducting archaeological digs and field work and holding several exhibitions and talks.

Meanwhile, a geophysical survey of the Tackley Primary School grounds, where the villa complex is believed to continue, will take place on Saturday.

The group’s exhibition Tackley Through Time, charting the history of Tackley from 12,000 BC to the present day, is also currently open in the village church.