The Story of the Horkstow Mosaic

Detail from Horkstow mosaic

This famous mosaic was found in 1797 by labourers preparing a kitchen garden at Horkstow Hall, Lincolnshire. Unfortunately they destroyed large areas of it before realising the importance of what they had unearthed - a mosaic floor belonging to great hall of a large and wealthy villa.

Antiquarian arguments


By 1799 the discovery had come to the attention of the leading antiquarians of the day including Samuel Lysons. Both he and William Fowler, an artist from the neighbouring village of Winterton, drew the mosaic but they fell out over their respective drawings. Lysons accused the local man of inaccuracies such as moving sections around and missing parts out. Looking at the remains of the actual mosaic today we can see that neither drawing is completely accurate!

Early excavations


Samuel Lysons was not content with drawing the mosaic - he wanted to see if excavations would reveal more of the building, and more mosaics. His excavations revealed a geometric mosaic and part of another about 30 metres to the south-east. Neither have survived but go to show that the house must have been richly furnished with mosaics.

On the move


Lysons persuaded the landowner to erect a protective building over the great mosaic. And there the remains lay until 1927, when the mosaic was removed in 17 sections. The owner offered it to the British Museum on loan for display, but there was only room to display a single panel - the Charioteer Panel. In 1974, the British Museum offered to release the entire mosaic to a museum nearer its home, and it was brought to the Hull and East Riding Museum, where it has been displayed since 1979.