Melbury Roman villa
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1002954
Date first listed: 24-Apr-1951
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: South Somerset (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 47932 27514, ST 47970 27451
Minor Romano British villa at Melbury.
Reasons for Designation
Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates with groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings at their 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. The minor Romano British villa at Melbury will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, longevity, development, social, commercial and political significance, trade, agricultural practices, domestic arrangements and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 4 August 2015. This 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.
This monument, which falls into two areas, includes a minor Romano British villa situated on a relatively low lying gentle north facing slope to the south west of the settlement of Somerton. The structures, layers and deposits associated with the villa survive as entirely buried features with no visible surface remains. Roman finds made in the area in 1886 prompted trial excavations in 1949 which recovered hypocaust tiles, 4th century AD pottery on either side of the road and a possible Roman well. Mr HJ Penrose, a test pilot, also observed some crop marks in the field to the east. A second trial trench revealed a laid floor with a number of 4th century sherds lying directly on it and sealed by a layer of tumbled stone masonry, flue tiles were also recovered.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: SO 232
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
PastScape Monument No:-193540
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