Fishbourne Roman Palace - 'Incredible boost' for fundraising campaign after visit by Tom Holland

Best-selling author and historian Tom Holland visited Fishbourne Roman Palace over the weekend, as part of his Sussex museum tour, to boost a heritage charity’s fundraising campaign.

Fishbourne Roman Palace, Britain’s largest Roman villa, is one of a number of historic properties at risk of permanent closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sussex Archaeological Society, which has seen its income fall ‘dramatically’ during the coroanvirus pandemic, is appealing for urgent, financial help from the public, to raise £1m worth of lost income, and secure the future of its prised assets. These also include Lewes Castle, an 11th-century Norman fortification, and Michelham Priory, a historic house and garden near Hailsham.

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Mr Holland is patron of the Celebrating 175 campaign which aims to help the society reach its 175th anniversary next year.

The historian spent three days in Sussex touring the society’s sites, including the nationally renowned Fishbourne Roman Palace. He first visited the palace as a child and is keen to see it again, describing it as an 'archaeological jewel of international standard'.

Mr Holland said: "Fishbourne Roman Palace is of immense significance, not only in Sussex and in Britain — it is of huge international significance as well.

"It is also one of the many sites administered by the Sussex Archaeological Society, the oldest county archaeological society in the country, which has been looking after the antiquities and treasures of Sussex for 174 years.

"However, like so many institutions, the society has been hit horribly by coronavirus and has suffered a terrible shortfall in its income.

Historian Tom Holland visited Fishbourne Roman Palace on Saturday. Photo: Steve Robards SR2008082

"That is why we are launching this appeal, to try and ensure that it can survive to celebrate its 175th birthday next year."

The Sussex Archaeological Society said the visit and live-tweeting by its 'enthusiastic, high-profile' patron 'has given our fundraising campaign an incredible boost'.

A spokesperson said: "We are immensely grateful to him for giving up his time to come and see our properties and the treasures they hold.

“Times are tough, but so are we, and we are determined to make it through this difficult year and come out stronger than ever for many years to come."

Tom Holland (right) with curator Rob Symmons. Photo: Steve Robards SR2008082

You can follow Tom's tour of all the society's properties on TwitterAs fundraising continues to save the historic museums from closure, Herigeas Hundas, is set to complete a sponsored walk at Old Winchester Hill Iron Age hill fort, on Sunday (August 16).

It comes after the Hampshire-based Anglo Saxon re-enactment group took to the hills of Kingley Vale, near Chichester, on July 12 for another sponsored event.

Tom Holland (left) is patron of the Celebrating 175 campaign which aims to help the societyreach its 175th anniversary next year. Photo: Steve Robards SR2008082

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Tom Holland said Fishbourne Roman Palace is of 'immense significance'. Photo: Steve Robards SR2008082