Reasons for Designation
Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates at the focus of which were groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings. The villa buildings usually include a well-appointed dwelling house. 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, underfloor 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 to distinguish them from 'major' villas. The latter were a very small group of extremely substantial and opulent villas built by the very wealthiest members of Romano-British society. 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. As a very diverse and often long-lived type of monument, a significant proportion of the known population are identified as nationally important. The minor Roman villa at East Malling is a good example of its type which survives well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the villa and the landscape in which it was constructed.
The remains of the Late Iron Age enclosure underlying the villa are part of an enclosed farmstead. Iron Age enclosed farmsteads are generally represented by curvilinear enclosures containing evidence of a small group of circular domestic buildings and associated agricultural structures. Where excavated, these sites are also found to contain pits or rectangular post- built structures for the storage of grain and other produce. The surrounding enclosures would have provided protection against cattle rustling and tribal raiding.
The remains of the Iron Age enclosed farmstead at East Malling indicates continuity in occupation on the site from the Iron Age through to the Roman period. It will contain archaeological evidence and environmental information relating to the construction and use of the Iron Age enclosure and the landscape in which it was constructed.
The monument includes part of an Iron Age enclosure and minor Roman villa surviving as buried remains. It is situated on gently sloping ground at East Malling, which descends towards the flood plain of the River Medway to the north.
The earliest evidence for occupation includes a number of Late Iron Age post holes and ditches which are considered to be the remains of an enclosed farmstead, preceding and underlying the villa. At least one of the ditches was re-cut in the Roman period. The floors and stone foundations of the 1st to the 4th century AD villa have been recorded through partial excavation and survive in situ. The main range of the villa is orientated east to west with a further wing running to the south. The remains of opus signinum, painted plaster and tesserae provide evidence for the internal decoration of the villa. The villa complex includes a 'veranda' approached through an adjoining timber porch or outhouse, which was demolished and rebuilt on several occasions during the Roman period. A boundary wall is thought to surround the villa.
This minor Roman villa was partially excavated in 1955 and 1965. The finds include Roman building material including brick, tile, glass and wall plaster; and occupation evidence including Samian ware pottery; animal bones; and coins. The tesserae of a possible wall mosaic were also found; an unusual feature in Britain.
The monument excludes all modern fences and fence posts, gates and gate posts but the ground beneath these features is included.
Sources: Kent HER TQ75NW6. NMR TQ75NW6. PastScape 415330.
Kent OS Maps (1:2500): 1885, 1897, 1908 and 1937.