Slight univallate hillfort and minor Romano-British villa 405m west of The New Buildings.
Reasons for Designation
Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes, generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth - fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for 150 to 200 years prior to their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, while access to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways while more elaborate features like overlapping ramparts and outworks are limited to only a few examples. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Slight univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally. They are important for understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age.
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 slight univallate hillfort and minor Romano-British villa 405m west of The New Buildings indicate the prolonged period of occupation and the continuing strategic and territorial significance of this area. They will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the construction, development and longevity of the hillfort and its continued re-use, the social and political significance of the villa and its occupants, the agricultural practices, trade, domestic arrangements and Romanisation of the population and its overall landscape context through time.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 28 September 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 slight univallate hillfort containing a minor Romano British villa situated on a gentle south facing slope at the head of the valleys of several tributaries leading to the River Churn. The hillfort, also known as ‘Ditches Hillfort’ measures approximately 410m east to west by 265m north to south and is defined by a rampart bank and ditch which survive differentially as slight earthworks or as buried features and structures visible as crop marks on aerial photographs. Aerial photographs, partial excavation and a geophysical survey carried out in 2006 have indicated the interior is crossed by a central track way with boundaries extending from it and contained several storage pits, a possible square building, some hard standing and a round house measuring up to 6m in diameter. This was all remodelled during the later Iron Age into a double ditched enclosure which appeared to have a non-defensive and more symbolic function but was evidently of high status and was closely associated with the nearby Bagendon oppidum.
The monument's importance continued with the construction of a minor Romano British villa of the corridor type within the enclosure. This building measured approximately 30m long by 8m wide and was divided into at least six rooms and orientated east to west. It was first occupied in the 1st century and extended in the 2nd century when wings were added. A major fire at the end of the 3rd century appears to have led to its eventual abandonment. The villa is the westernmost example of such a 1st century structure and is one of only twelve with a cellar (at its eastern end) known in England. It was associated with several ancillary buildings. Excavations in 1982-3 and 1985 produced evidence of this prolonged period of occupation in the form of pottery, tiles and other domestic finds.