Orpington Roman villa
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1001992
Date first listed: 30-Jul-1973
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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 45414 65846
Crofton Roman villa, 28m east of Lynwood House.
Reasons for Designation
Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates at the focus of which were groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings. The term "villa" is now commonly used to describe either the estate or the buildings themselves. The buildings usually include a well-appointed dwelling house, which was partly or wholly stone-built, commonly with a timber-framed superstructure on masonry footings. Roofs were generally tiled and the house could feature tiled or mosaic floors, underfloor heating, wall plaster, glazed windows and cellars. Many had integral or separate suites of heated baths. The house was usually accompanied by a range of buildings providing accommodation for farm labourers, workshops and storage for agricultural produce.
These were arranged around or alongside a courtyard and were surrounded by a complex of paddocks, pens, yards and features such as vegetable plots, granaries, threshing floors, wells and hearths, all approached by tracks leading from the surrounding fields. Villa buildings were constructed throughout the period of Roman occupation, from the first to the fourth centuries AD. Villa owners tended to be drawn from a limited elite section of Romano-British society. Although some villas belonged to immigrant Roman officials or entrepreneurs, the majority seem to have been in the hands of wealthy natives with a more-or-less Romanised lifestyle, and some were built directly on the sites of Iron Age farmsteads. They are found throughout lowland Britain and occasionally beyond. Roman villas provide a valuable index of the rate, extent and degree to which native British society became Romanised, as well as indicating the sources of inspiration behind changes of taste and custom. As a very diverse and often long-lived type of monument, a significant proportion of the known population are identified as nationally important.
Despite having been partially destroyed or covered by modern development, Crofton Roman villa survives well. It includes a considerable amount of excavated and consolidated upstanding remains. As a site accessible to the public it is a valuable educational and recreational resource.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 19 June 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 minor Romano-British villa surviving as upstanding remains and archaeological remains. It is situated on the Thanet beds in an elevated position on an east facing slope near Orpington Station.
The villa is over 40m long and 15m wide and orientated north-south. Part of the villa has been destroyed or covered by modern development. However most of the chalk foundations and flint walls of the villa have been exposed and consolidated following partial excavation, and enclosed within a modern protective cover building. There is a long corridor on the west side, about 2m wide, from which five rooms, about 6m square, extend. Several other rooms form later additions, which include the probable remains of a corridor on the east side. At least two of the floors are of opus signinum and three are tessellated. In five rooms the stokeholes, channels and pilae of a hypocaust survive. It is thought to have included at least 20 rooms at its greatest extent.
The Romano-British villa was discovered in the 19th century and partially excavated in 1926-7, 1952-61, 1988-89 and 1991. Several periods of occupation were uncovered. The earliest dated to the Iron Age and included a hut dwelling, about 0.6m below the floor of the villa, with pottery dating to about 100 BC. The dwelling had been covered with sandy soil containing early Roman pottery dating to about AD 50. In the first century AD, a Romano-British farmstead may have been established on the site, although only a small boundary ditch has been found. In the second century, the earliest masonry building was constructed with a west corridor and a range of at least five rooms facing south-east across the valley overlooking the River Cray. There were some minor alterations prior to major rebuilding in about AD 200. At this time a new range, at least 9m wide by 17m long, was added to the south end, several new rooms were inserted in the west corridor and an east corridor may have been built. A north range may also possibly have been added but this has been destroyed. In the third century, minor alterations were carried out to the south end before further major modifications. The northern half of the villa was abandoned and the south end was rebuilt to include a suite of five heated rooms. This reduction in size may reflect a decline in economic prosperity, which has been observed at other villa sites at this time. The villa was probably abandoned by about AD 400, after which the building collapsed, the stone was probably robbed, and it eventually became buried beneath soil created from hill wash. The finds from the excavations included about 25 Roman coins, dating largely between AD 270 and AD 400, Roman pottery including Samian, Patch Grove and Thames Medway wares, roof tile including tegulae and imbrecies, broken glass, part of a sandal, darning needle, fragments of painted plaster, animal bones and oyster shells.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: LO 115
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Greater London SMR 070630/00/00, 070694/00/00. NMR TQ46NE36. PastScape 407700,
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