An Iron Age defended settlement and a Romano British minor villa 200m SSW of Higher Holcombe Farm.
Reasons for Designation
Defended Iron Age farmsteads are known as defended settlements. The enclosing defences were of earthen construction some had a timber fence or palisade. They would have been occupied by small communities, perhaps no more than a single family group. Defended settlements are a rare monument type. Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates containing groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings. They usually contain a well-appointed dwelling house. Most were partly or wholly stone-built, many with a timber-framed superstructure on masonry footings. Roofs were generally tiled and the house could feature tiled or mosaic floors, under floor 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, workshops and storage for agricultural produce. Villa buildings were constructed from the first to the fourth centuries AD. They are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled. Villa owners tended to be drawn from a limited elite section of Romano-British society, the majority seem to have been in the hands of wealthy natives with a Romanised lifestyle, and some were built directly on the sites of Iron Age farmsteads. The majority are classified as `minor' villas. They indicate 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. In addition, they serve to illustrate the agrarian and economic history of the Roman province, allowing comparisons over wide areas both within and beyond Britain. The Iron Age defended settlement and Romano British minor villa 200m SSW of Higher Holcombe Farm is an important monument containing all elements of change in society before, during and after the Roman conquest.
This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 10 November 2015. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument includes an Iron Age defended settlement and Romano British minor villa situated on the lower eastern slopes of Shapwick Hill overlooking the valley of a tributary to the River Lim. Extensive excavations were carried out in 1850 and 1870 when a tessellated pavement and bath house was first discovered. During the 1960’s and 1970’s further excavations significantly added to our knowledge of the chronological history. There had been a continuity of occupation at this site from the late Iron Age right through the Roman period. The earliest settlement included at least two circular huts which measured up to 8.2m in diameter and had double walls. These were followed by a rectangular ditched enclosure containing two huts which was probably enclosed by a palisade. Two contemporary pits were uncovered and one contained the Holcombe bronze mirror and a considerable quantity of pottery dating to the late Iron Age and early Roman period. Within the Iron Age enclosure four rectangular timber framed houses, the basis for the villa, were subsequently built. In about AD 180 – 200 an aisled house was constructed. Further periods of rebuilding and modification followed including the addition of a tiled octagonal bath house and an extensive kitchen. Several mosaic floors, verandas and linking corridors were also added as the villa expanded. Third and 4th century middens produced significant quantities of pottery and occupation seems to have continued until the 5th century. Post Roman activity took the form of iron working furnaces and domestic materials within the ruins of the villa walls. It is suggested that the four estates that comprised Lyme in 1086 may have been derived from a single Roman salt-producing estate based on Holcombe Villa. The visible earthwork remains take the form of a curving bank on the southern side of the complex, all other features, structures and deposits are preserved as buried features.