I decided to renew my annual membership of the Corinium Museum, Cirencester, a few weeks back and to take a wider interest in not only the artefacts on display there, but also to attend some of their lectures and behind-the-scenes displays. The museum is dedicated to local archaeology with excavations across the last 150 years having revealed a treasure trove of Roman and Saxon finds, and they have become especially famous for housing the best collection of Roman mosaics in Britain.
It all began in 1849 when the Hunting Dogs Mosaic was discovered and lifted from beneath the road outside the Ship Inn in the centre of the town. I suppose this shouldn’t have been a surprise because Cirencester, previously Corinium Dubunnorum, had been the second largest walled Roman town in Britain in the second century and the capital of the Dubonni tribe.
As more finds were discovered it was obvious that a public museum was needed to house so many significant artefacts and a new building was commissioned and built by 1856. The original Corinium Museum was opened in August 1856 alongside Tetbury Road on the site of The Barley Mow pub.
By 1937 it was clear that new premises were needed to house the growing collection and a site was chosen in Park Street occupied by the YMCA. The new museum was opened in 1938 by Professor G. M. Trevelyan, the British historian and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. It has since expanded considerably to the present day, in fact the main entrance hall was being rebuilt on the day I visited to renew my membership. On that day I concentrated solely on the famous mosaics that started it all off, so here’s a few of what’s on display: