Romano-British masonry building and Saxon cemetery, Fordcroft, Orpington
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1001973
Date first listed: 05-Oct-1979
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: Greater London Authority
District: Bromley (London Borough)
National Grid Reference: TQ 46710 67596
Roman bathhouse and Anglo-Saxon cemetery, 144m south-east of Acer Cottage
Reasons for Designation
The Roman bathhouse between Poverest and Fordcroft Road is likely to have been part of a larger complex of buildings such as a minor Romano-British villa. The bathhouse was one of the principal public buildings of a Roman town. Private bath complexes or suites were also attached to Roman villas and, although rare, sometimes Roman town houses and commercial properties. The practice of bathing was an integral part of Roman urban life, and the bathhouse or suite served an important function as a place for relaxation and social congregation as well as exercise and hygiene. Bathhouses or complexes consisted of a series of rooms of graded temperature containing a variety of plunge-baths. The frigidarium (cold room) led, progressively, to one or more tepidaria (warm rooms) and caldaria (hot rooms). They could also include changing rooms, latrines, sauna and massage rooms, and a palaestra or exercise area. The bath complex was heated by hypocausts connected to nearby furnaces; it was also linked to, and depended upon, an engineered water supply which involved the construction of drains, sewers and frequently an aqueduct.
Despite some disturbance in the past, the Roman bathhouse, 144m south-east of Acer Cottage has been shown by partial excavation to survive well. It will contain further archaeological and environmental remains relating to the use, occupation and history of the bathhouse and to the landscape in which it was constructed.
The later occupation on the site included an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. Beginning in the fifth century AD, there is evidence from distinctive burials and cemeteries, new settlements, and new forms of pottery and metalwork, of the immigration into Britain of settlers from northern Europe, bringing with them new religious beliefs. The Roman towns appear to have gone into rapid decline and the old rural settlement pattern to have been disrupted. Although some Roman settlements and cemeteries continued in use, the native Britons rapidly adopted many of the cultural practices of the new settlers and it soon becomes difficult to distinguish them in the archaeological record. So-called Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are dated to the early Anglo-Saxon period, from the fifth to the seventh centuries AD. With the conversion to Christianity during the late sixth and seventh centuries AD, these pagan cemeteries appear to have been abandoned in favour of new sites, some of which have continued in use up to the present day. Burial practices included both inhumation and cremation. Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries consist predominantly of inhumation burials which were placed in rectangular pits in the ground, occasionally within coffins. The bodies were normally accompanied by a range of grave goods, including jewellery and weaponry. The cemeteries vary in size, the largest containing several hundred burials. Around 1000 inhumation cemeteries have been recorded in England. They represent one of our principal sources of archaeological evidence about the Early Anglo-Saxon period, providing information on population, social structure and ideology. All surviving examples, other than those which have been heavily disturbed, are considered worthy of protection.
Despite some disturbance in the past, the Anglo-Saxon cemetery, 144m south-east of Acer Cottage has been shown by partial excavation to survive well. It will contain further archaeological and environmental remains relating to the use, occupation and history of the cemetery and to the landscape in which it was constructed.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 30 July 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a Roman bathhouse and Anglo-Saxon cemetery surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated between Poverest Road and Fordcroft Road on an east-facing slope at the foot of a valley through which runs the River Cray.
Part of the remains of the Roman bathhouse have been exposed, consolidated and put on display following the excavations. They are protected by a modern cover building. The foundations and walls survive up to 0.6m high and include three rooms, two of which include baths, in a row orientated roughly north-west to south-east. These are each no larger than 5m long and 3.5m wide and the eastern-most room is apsed at the south end. They include what is considered to be a hypocaust and, to the east, the buried remains of a north-south orientated ditch, which truncates a natural watercourse. Further rooms and out-buildings survive as below-ground remains including a paved courtyard to the north-west. South of Bellefield Road are Roman pits and postholes, thought to be the remains of storage buildings, and a timber well.
Immediately to the north and east of the bathhouse are the buried remains of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, including approximately 85 inhumations and cremations. The inhumations are largely orientated east-west and the grave goods found in conjunction with the burials indicate that they date to between about AD 450 and AD 550.
In 1946, the discovery of Roman pottery during road works prompted archaeological excavation on the site. Partial excavation was carried out in 1965-8, 1971-80, 1988 and 2005-7. The earliest finds included worked flint dating from the Mesolithic period and pre-Roman pottery. The finds associated with the bathhouse include roof tiles, hypocaust tiles, tesserae, Roman pottery, loom-weights and metal-working slag. These indicate that the bathhouse was in use between about AD 270 and AD 400. It may have been part of a larger complex such as a minor Romano-British villa. The presence of concentrated areas of burning and metal-working waste, as well as a possible kiln, indicates that at least part of the site was in use for small-scale industrial activities during the Roman period. It is likely that the Roman buildings are associated with a larger settlement centred on the River Cray. Roman coins and Romano-British burials have been found elsewhere in the area. The Anglo-Saxon grave goods included a shield boss, spear-head, two disc brooches, a bronze buckle and a decorated glass armlet.
Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity of this site but are not included because they have not been formally assessed
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: LO 145
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Archaeological Investigations at Bellefield Road, Orpington, accessed from http://www.pre-construct.com/Sites/Highlights/Bellefield.htm
Greater London SMR 070833/00/00, 070773/00/00, 070838/00/00, MLO7654. NMR TQ46NE2. PastScape 407594.,
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing