NEW interpretation boards will be produced for Dorchester’s Roman Town House in the coming months.

The historic building, with its mosaic floors and underfloor heating system, lies behind County Hall and is often described as the county town’s ‘hidden treasure’.

Funding has been agreed to improve the site which will include a new entrance to be cut through the West Walks wall, an open space area which could host performances, and changes to car parking and disabled access.

Cllr Andy Canning, who is vice chair of the town’s heritage committee said that new information boards would be produced for the re-vamped site to help with the interpretation of the Roman Town House.

He said that two candidates had been interviewed online and one appointed, although he was unable, at the moment to say who that was.

“It was a really good competition between two outstanding firms…I look forward to the work they will produce for us over the coming year. The Roman Town House will be really, really special,” he said.

Planning consent for the changes was agreed in August last year with some preliminary work, on car parking and demolishing nearby storage building already taken place.

The house is said to be one of the finest examples of its type in the UK, but has been so poorly signposted that many visitors, in a survey, struggled to find it. Those with disabilities found access to the site difficult.

Much of the work to improve access will be funded by a Heritage Lottery grant.

The application says the aim of the changes is to “enhance the overall setting of the Roman Town House, to improve access and circulation, to make the maintenance of the site more sustainable, to improve interpretation of the site and enhance its context in the historic town of Dorchester.”

Existing pathways around the Town House will be refurbished and the pathway extended to allow a safe route past the low hanging roof eaves.

Some trees will also be cleared which will open the views into the site and help reinstate the original context of the Town House inside the corner of the Roman town walls. Planners say the removal of the trees will also help address issues caused with damp and help deter occasional antisocial behaviour.

The town house with its mosaic floors was discovered in the 1930s when work started on the construction of County Hall.

The complex, which developed during the third and fourth centuries AD consisted of two stone ranges and a series of wooden buildings.  Each range of buildings contained a hypocaust, a form of underfloor warm air heating, while the western range also had floor mosaics that illustrate the different functions of each of the rooms.

The building is thought to have been the home of a local Romano-British family, possibly an industrialist or businessman, whose ancestors had adopted the Roman way of life some 300 years earlier.

In the 1990s the County Council, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, added a large covered building to protect the mosaics. Further work took place in the later 2000s, again supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.