Preston Roman villa


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SY 70308 82701


Minor Romano-British villa 385m south west of St Andrews Church.

Reasons for Designation

Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates with groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings at the focus. 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, the design of which varies considerably according to the needs, taste and prosperity of the occupier. Most of the houses 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 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. They are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled to fit changing circumstances. They could serve a wide variety of uses alongside agricultural activities, including administrative, recreational and craft functions, and this is reflected in the considerable diversity in their plan. The least elaborate villas served as simple farmhouses whilst, for the most complex, the term "palace" is not inappropriate. 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. Roman villa buildings are widespread, with between 400 and 1000 examples recorded nationally. The majority of these are classified as `minor' villas. Minor villas 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. 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.

Despite partial early excavation, the minor Romano-British villa 385m south west of St Andrews Church will retain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, longevity, social, political and economic significance, agricultural practices, trade, industrial activity, domestic arrangements, abandonment and overall landscape context.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 15 December 2015. 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 situated in the valley of and bisected by the River Jordan. The villa survives as entirely buried deposits, layers and structures with no visible surface features. The villa was discovered by Medhurst in 1844 and first investigated in 1852 when the course of the River Jordan had altered. Partial excavations in 1871 revealed a building which included a length of walling, a room containing a mosaic pavement measuring approximately 6.5m square, and two further rooms to the south east and south west both roughly paved with tesserae. Pottery dated to around the 3rd century AD was recovered. The mosaic floor had a border of coarse white tesserae with a black band which enclosed a rectangular guilloche framed panel in black, white and red. The panel contained leaf scrolls with a rosette in an octagon at the centre and formed an apparently symmetrical design. Further excavations in 1932 found the south wall of the building and suggested the mosaic pavement lay at the north western angle of two ranges of buildings which extended to the east and south forming north and west ranges. Later limestone paving in part overlay the earlier mosaic floors and where paving was missing the floors appeared patched with layers of ash. At the eastern end a furnace with it’s stoke hole filled with Romano-British pottery was also recovered. Finds included roofing tiles, tesserae, limestone slabs, part of a quern, Samian and New Forest Ware pottery, painted wall plaster and a Kimmeridge Shale furniture leg. These also suggested a 3rd to 4th century date. The mosaic floor was sealed beneath a layer of concrete in 1946. The villa is known locally as ‘Preston Roman Villa’.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DO 64
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:-454283


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

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