AN archaeologist has unearthed a Roman villa close to where he found a buried Saxon princess five years ago.

The newly-discovered site, dating back to about 370AD, belonged to an important Romano-British chieftain.

Two rooms have already been excavated by archaeologist Steve Sherlock, who discovered priceless Saxon princess jewels and artefacts in 2007.

He says there are perhaps 20 more rooms still to be uncovered at the site in Loftus , near Redcar , east Cleveland.

A large paved area with a room about ten metres by six metres has so far been found, together with a second smaller room to the east, with a paved area leading from the other room.

Pottery and other artefacts have been discovered, which suggest the villa is more than 16 centuries old. Mr Sherlock, 58, of Redcar, said: “This villa, part of an agricultural estate, is of national importance.

“It’s very rare in the North of England and there have only been about four ever found in the Teesside region.

“One was found a few years ago in Ingleby Barwick.

“But this one is a very high status building which would have housed someone of high importance, a Romano- British chieftain and his family, retinue and slaves.”

Mr Sherlock and his team of volunteers are back filling the dig on the elevated, rural site this weekend, closing it down for the winter until work resumes next year.

The public can visit tomorrow, between 11am and 3pm, to have a last look for themselves.

He said: “We also know jet was made on this site. No jewellery is on site and we have not yet found any mosaics.

Villas in the Tees Valley tended not to have mosaics.”

He said the site has been occupied since Neolithic times, adding: “They picked this site because it was on fertile land, near the sea for transport and fish for food and there was a Roman road nearby.”

The villa is only about 100 metres south of the worldclass Saxon princess bed burial discovery of 2007.

The excavations are being undertaken with the support of the landowners Alan Bothroyd, at Upton Farm, and Tony Garbutt, at Street House Farm.

They are supported by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and are carried out by members of Teesside Archaeological Society and local volunteers.