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Romano-British villa at Withington, Romano-British building at Manor Court Field and associated features

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Romano-British villa at Withington, Romano-British building at Manor Court Field and associated features

List entry Number: 1003345

Location

The buried remains lie to the south-west of Withington, and are located between the Rive Coln to the east, and Withington Woods, to the south.

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Gloucestershire

District: Cotswold

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Withington

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 31-Aug-1948

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Jun-2012

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM - OCN

UID: GC 200

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Two Romano-British building complexes with associated field boundaries and trackways situated on a limestone plateau, surviving as buried masonry and features.

Reasons for Designation

The Romano-British villa at Withington, a second Romano–British building complex in close proximity at Manor Court Field, as well as associated features, are all scheduled for the following principal reasons:   * Survival: a good and rare survival of two Roman building complexes as buried features, with mosaics of particular importance;

* Rarity: the proximity of two substantial and high-status Romano-British building complexes, thought to be contemporary, is especially rare and possibly unique;

* Potential: partial excavation and other investigative work have identified that the site retains valuable information relating to both the development of the villas, their relationship to each other, and the function and occupation of individual structures within the complexes;

* Group Value: Withington villa and the Manor Court Field building sit in a landscape which is well known for a number of prominent villas, including two nearby scheduled examples: Chedworth (NHLE 1003324) and Compton Abdale (NHLE 1003344).

History

Romano-British villas were extensive rural complexes of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings that were constructed throughout the Roman period, from the first to the fourth centuries AD.   One of the key defining characteristics of a villa is that it was a rural establishment, independent of larger settlements. They seem to have been a fundamental part of the model of Romanisation, with villas typically at the centre of an agricultural estate. Villas are often thought of as high-status buildings, with hypocausts, architectural ornamentation and baths as common features. Interestingly though, most excavated sites in Britain appear to have developed from simpler, perhaps ‘lower status’ sites, to ‘higher status’ or more substantial ones. The term 'villa' is now commonly used to describe either the estate or the buildings themselves.                  Villas are found throughout lowland Britain and occasionally beyond. The least elaborate served as simple farmhouses whilst, for the most complex, the term 'palace' is not inappropriate. 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. Ancillary buildings may include workshops, storage for agricultural produce and accommodation for farm labourers and were typically arranged around or alongside a courtyard, surrounded by paddocks, pens, yards and features such as granaries, threshing floors, wells and hearths.   The remains of Withington Roman villa were first discovered in 1811 and Samuel Lysons was invited to carry out investigations; the remains of walls, pavements and third- to fourth-century AD mosaics were uncovered; enough to identity that the plan of the building was a tripartite corridor villa and bath-house. One of the mosaics (the Orpheus Mosaic, likely to have been designed in the third century, by a member of the Corinian school of Cirencester), was donated by the landowners to the British Museum. The villa site was scheduled in 1948. In 2006 investigative work including magnetometer and resistivity surveys and partial excavation were undertaken at Withington Villa and also in an area to the east of the villa (known as Manor Court Field), where fragments of Romano-British roof tiles and tesserae had previously been recovered. At Manor Court Field the geophysical survey revealed the existence of a further building complex, somewhat larger than the known extent of Withington Villa. Excavations were carried out over the south-east part of the new discovered building complex. The field between the building complexes was also surveyed and revealed a series of linear anomalies which appear to connect the two sites.   The 2006 excavations at Withington Villa were carried out with Scheduled Monument Consent and concentrated on those parts of the site already excavated by Lysons in 1811. Various limestone walls, tesserae, mosaics and predominantly third- and fourth-century coins were recovered, as well as further evidence of the rooms already identified by Lysons.

In addition to the Withington Villa, a further building complex was identified to the south-east in Manor Court Field. This consists of an 'L' shaped building complex with various rooms, including a possible bath house, and appears to be significantly larger than the adjacent Withington Villa. Excavation has revealed three main phases of construction; second century AD, late third- and fourth-century repairs (including the addition of mosaic floors), and further repairs in the late-fourth-/ fifth-century AD. One of the mosaic floors was possibly designed and laid by the mosaicist responsible for the Orpheus mosaic from Withington Villa.   Between the two building complexes is a series of trackways and other linear features, some possibly associated with water management, which may suggest that the two sites were inter-related in some way. Two trial trenches were placed across the ditches; however no evidence of either a Romano-British water system or votive association with the nearby spring were identified and these features remain undated.   There have been a number of interpretations concerning the relationship between the two building complexes. It has been suggested that they represent different phases of occupation, with the site in Manor Court Field replacing the earlier Withington Villa. Alternatively, they may have been contemporary buildings which either housed different sections of a family group, or performed different functions, with the Manor Court Field complex next to the River Coln serving as the bath house to the villa at Withington.

Withington was the subject of an important study in 1959 by H.P.R. Finberg ('Roman and Saxon Withington: A Study in Continuity') which proposed the idea - which was generally accepted - that Roman villa estates could have remained as administrative and working entities throughout the Saxon period, to re-emerge as manors.

Details

Excavations in 1811 confirmed the existence of a villa complex to the south of Withington village. Further excavations and surveys were carried out in 2006. The identified remains of the villa are orientated roughly east to west and cover an area of approximately 690 square metres, although the full extent of the original villa site is unknown.  The early-C19 excavation revealed a tripartite corridor building with fifteen rooms. Limestone walls, eight mosaic floors (one of which was removed and donated to the British Museum) and a hypocaust system were uncovered during the excavation, as well as pottery, coins and pilae stacks (small clay tile pillars used to form a Roman hypocaust).The coins found in the excavations in this area were predominantly third and fourth century AD.   The 2006 magnetometer survey located the remains of a series of linear features to the east of the villa which have been interpreted as a walled courtyard associated with the villa. Also in this area are a number of well-defined linear and curvilinear ditch-type features, as well as a series of pits of varying sizes which are thought to represent trackways, enclosures and field systems surrounding the villa complex. These features may be contemporary with the villa, or could indicate earlier land use. Late-first century Malvernian limestone-tempered pottery has also been found in a pit to the north of the building complex.    The area to the east of Withington Villa, between the road and the River Coln, in Manor Court Field was also subject to a geophysical survey in 2006. This revealed a further building complex close to the river, covering approximately 1200 square meters. Due to the substantial size of this second complex it has been interpreted as a possible second villa with an associated bath house. An L-shaped structure has been identified with ranges running east-west and north-south, each approximately 35m long. The north to south range was excavated and contains a room, with a channelled ‘union-jack’ style hypocaust beneath, thought to be the foundations of a hot plunge pool; as well as further rooms containing opus signinum lining, leading to the interpretation that this part of the building was a bath house. On the eastern edge of this range a structure measuring 3.4m wide and 0.8m deep was also identified, lined with clay and constructed of unmortared limestone blocks. Its precise function is unclear; however it has been interpreted as either a possible cold plunge pool, a water cistern for the bath house, or a recreational swimming pool.  The coins found in this area are predominantly from the third and fourth century AD.   The 2006 geophysical survey also identified a number of undated linear features, including possible trackways, ditches or a water management system between the Romano-British building in Manor Court Field and the Withington Villa which are aligned north-west to south-east. This area is also the site of a spring.

Excluded from the scheduling are the modern fences and gates, as well as the modern electricity pylon and modern road surface, although the ground beneath all these features is included in the scheduling.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Thompson, S, Chelu, R, 'Transactions of the The Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society' in A Roman Villa Complex at Withington Gloucestershire, , Vol. 27, (2009)
Other
Wessex Archaeology, Withington, Gloucestershire Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment of the Results, Report 59468.01, 2006,

National Grid Reference: SP0319314814

Map

Map
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End of official listing