A PAIR of Cotswold metal detector enthusiasts believe they have uncovered the biggest Roman mosaic in north west Europe.

Paul Ballinger, 41 and John Carter, 53 found the intricate floor design in a field and they believe it has national, if not international signficance.

They made their discovery on Sunday as they returned from a day’s unsuccessful metal-detecting but noticed the field, which they had covered previously, had been freshly-ploughed.

After noticing several tesserae, which are cubic mosaic tiles, the pair got permission from the landowner to dig a one square foot hole and uncovered the edge of the mosaic.

Paul said they were both thrilled with their 4th Century discovery, which they estimate could be 40-foot in diameter, larger than the famous Great Orpheus Pavement at Woodchester, near Stroud.

"If it is bigger than Woodchester then it will be a massive find. We were over the moon and the landowner was absolutely gobsmacked as well.

"You have got this ploughed field and you go down ten inches and find this beautful work of Roman art.

"We revealed the leg of an animal and the bit we uncovered was not damaged at all. We didn’t go any further because we are not professional archaeologists."

John Paddock, curator of Corinium Museum, said: "The discovery of any mosaic in Britain is a significant one. It maybe one of a series of mosaics showing the legend of Orpheus.

"It is very significant as far as I can see. It’s a new site which is very exciting and in an architectural career spanning many years I have never discovered a mosaic."

Mr Paddock however is unsure whether the find could be a record discovery.

"I doubt it is bigger than the Woodchester mosaic from what has been uncovered so far," he added.

The site is near Kemble but the Standard is keeping the location under wraps.

Jan Wills, county archaeologist for Gloucestershire, said: "We are very interested in the find and we will be doing some research and talking to the landowners to find out what it is.

"It could be extremely important," she added.