DEVELOPERS looking to build new homes in South Oxfordshire have stumbled across a very old one.

Archaeologists working on a site for properties near Wallingford have uncovered a Roman villa.

Curators at Wallingford Museum are now liaising with the team of archaeologists to assess the significance of the finds so they can offer a more precise picture of the area's history for visitors.

And school pupils from a school which encourages open-air teaching have been finds from the site, including bones in a burial urn.

Linden Homes is building more than 60 new homes at Celsea Place, Cholsey, and work on the development prompted the significant discovery, which is unlikely to hold up the project.

Andy Hood, project leader for Foundations Archaeology, said the remains of the Roman villa would be preserved underground because a children's play area would be positioned over it.

He added: "It's exciting for people in the area to know there was once a Roman villa here - we have found a burial urn, corn dryers, lots of pottery, some Roman coins and a nice necklace."

Pupils from the Treehouse School in Cholsey, where primary schools pupils are encouraged to complete lessons outdoors, have visited the site.

Lee Ryman, headteacher of the Treehouse School, said: "The children were fascinated to find out that a Roman villa was right under their feet.

"There was also evidence of Roman grain dryers which showed there was quite a large farming community.

"The pupils also saw some bones contained in a burial urn - they couldn't stop talking about it.

"The weather was cold on the day we visited but the children didn't complain because they were so interested.

"There was also a very deep burial pit where archaeologists found the skeleton of what they thought was a teenage girl, possibly from medieval times.

"It certainly makes a change from a lesson in the classroom - it was right on the doorstep and it brings history alive."

Judy Dewey, curator of Wallingford Museum in High Street, said: "This is a very important discovery - until now there has been a question mark about where the Romans were based and now we know a lot more.

"When the archaeologists dug the initial trial pits they did not expect to find very much but they have discovered the remains of a Roman villa.

"So far they have found the remains of what would have been a heating system for the whole villa, a corn dryer and a lot of Roman pottery.

"I don't think they have found any jewellery or coins but more work is now being done to fully excavate the site and I think the team is expected to be there for another six months.

Ms Dewey said members of Wallingford Historical and Archaeological Society were now working with the team of archaeologists and staff at Cholsey Primary School have also been alerted.

The curator, who lives in Cholsey, added that the team of archaeologists from Foundations Archaeology, began working on the site in December.

A spokeswoman for Linden Homes said: "The excavations have uncovered evidence for settlement, dating from the middle Iron Age to later Roman period.

"Upon completion of the fieldwork, the site evidence will be analysed and a detailed report will be produced and made available to the public."