Anyone who knows me knows that I love Roman mosaics. I couldn’t have been happier to be commissioned by North Yorkshire Moors National Park working with English Heritage to recreate sections of the nearby Beadlam Roman Villa mosaic, Helmsley, North Yorkshire in 2022.
What the project was and how it came about
Our aim and objective was to inspire local communities to reconnect with their river (falling under the Ryevitalise Partnership Scheme) and the wider historical landscape. By recreating detailed hand-cut authentic sections of the Beadlam Roman Villa mosaic local schools and community groups were encouraged to discover and understand the significance of this hidden riverside site and the role it played in shaping the landscape and population.
Beadlam Roman Villa was discovered in 1966 and excavated until 1978. The site has never officially been open to the public and there has only been very limited access via one-off pre-booked public tours. The original mosaic was removed during the excavations and is housed in the English Heritage archaeological store, Helmsley. Public viewings of the original mosaic have been extremely limited as only three small sections have been reconstructed and open days are limited with items taken out of storage for display on rotation.
What we did, who with, how many, where we went and what was achieved
Using a painting of the original mosaic as it lay in situ, by Roman expert David Neal, I recreated further drawings of three significant sections of the mosaic to be recreated. As the David Neal drawing was A4 this involved enlarging the scale of each section to measure 90 cm x 120cm (involving much refining of drawings due to distortion of the image on enlargement). This is a comfortable size for participants to work on and provided each mosaic to be in-scale with the original and therefore as authentic as possible.
Appropriately coloured and durable mosaic tiles were sourced to be in-keeping with the original tesserae of local limestone, sandstone from the West Riding or Durham, chalky limestone from the Malton area and smashed roof tile.
We identified schools and community groups within the immediate area to become involved. These included: Nawton Primary School, Ryedale School and Cubs, Beavers, Explorers and Scouts. We also included local events where the wider public could engage including attending the Ryedale Show and an English Heritage Helmsley Store Open Day (where sections of the original mosaic were displayed and discussed alongside our workshop).
In May we attended Nawton Primary School for three days of workshops with Year 3 and staff to create one panel of mosaic to be displayed in school. This included a discussion about Beadlam Roman villa, the Ryevatilise project linking it to their studies on the Romans. The pattern included a meander section of the mosaic.
At the end of the month we worked with English Heritage Helmsley Store to provide pre-booked workshops with the wider public during an Open Day. The public, ranging from 3-90 years old, added their tesserae to the community mosaic panel and also created their own mosaic coaster to take home. English Heritage provided tours of the store linking the workshop to the Romans with emphasis on the Beadlam Roman Villa mosaic which was taken out of storage for a rare display.
During four days in June we provided workshops with Year 9/10 and staff at Ryedale School where again the significance of the Roman villa and its mosaic were discussed linking its crucial location next to the river. A more detailed panel was created featuring the three stranded guilloche pattern. All of the children created their own mosaic coaster to keep.
In July we attended the Ryedale Show and invited members of the public to further create the community mosaic panel and their own mosaic coaster to keep. Ages ranged from 4-90 years old. Each participant was informed where the mosaic was sited and its historical importance and heritage linking to the river.
During a weekend in October we provided a workshop in Nawton Memorial Hall for members of the Cubs, Beavers, Explorers, Scouts, their parents and leaders to complete the community mosaic panel. Each group involved a discussion on the Ryevitalise project linking it with the project. The panel will be displayed in the entrance to the hall. Each participant also created a mosaic coaster to keep. This mosaic featured a geometric pattern surrounded by guilloche.
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Mosaic Artist (York, North Yorkshire, UK)
Email Sue Kershaw Mosaics