Roman Villa west of Hill Holt Farm

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1005018
Date first listed:
17-May-1934
Date of most recent amendment:
21-Aug-2020
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Abbey Field, North-east of Villa Farm, and west of Hill Holt Farm, Folly Lane, Norton Disney, Lincolnshire, LN6 9JL

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
Abbey Field, North-east of Villa Farm, and west of Hill Holt Farm, Folly Lane, Norton Disney, Lincolnshire, LN6 9JL

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

Location Description:
County:
Lincolnshire
District:
North Kesteven (District Authority)
Parish:
Norton Disney
National Grid Reference:
SK8595760244

Summary

A Romano-British villa considered to have originated in the 1st century AD and continued in occupation to the mid-4th century with evidence of several phases of construction and reconstruction. At its greatest extent it included a corridor dwelling-house, a bath suite, a basilican building and a gatehouse and was enclosed within a series of perimeter ditches.

Reasons for Designation

Period: * Roman villas are amongst the most characteristic settlements of the Roman period and as such are of great national importance;

Diversity: * The site includes a diversity of features, notably the winged corridor building, bath house, basilican building and gatehouse;

Potential: * The villa adds to our understanding of Romano-British society over several centuries and should be considered as a very important component within a wider landscape of Roman Britain, connecting with features such as the Fosse Way and the major settlements along its route.

History

Romano-British villas were constructed throughout the period of Roman occupation, from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD. They are amongst the most characteristic settlements of the Roman period, distinguished by an adoption of Roman traits such as rectilinear building types featuring wall-paintings, mosaics, hypocausts and bath suites. They often formed the focus of extensive rural estates, alongside domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings. A typical villa took the form of a well-appointed house, usually rectangular, with an adjoining or separate bath suite, and a number of ancillary buildings with associated yards and enclosures. Most were partly or wholly stone built, and some may have featured an upper storey. They are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled to fit changing circumstances.

Villas could serve a wide variety of uses alongside agricultural activities, including administrative, recreational and craft activities, and this is reflected in the considerable diversity in their plan. Although some were probably built by settlers from the wider Roman Empire, many are thought to have been built by the native elite, often sited on or nearby earlier Iron Age farmsteads.

Early in the C20 the villa west of Hill Holt Farm in the Lincolnshire parish of Norton Disney was reputed to be a Roman pottery owing to the frequent unearthing of terracotta artefacts there. Farm work undertaken in 1933, which included the destruction of part of the site, uncovered a mosaic pavement and the villa was identified for the first time in the modern era. The site was scheduled in 1934 and excavated by Adrian Oswald between 1934 and 1937. Oswald’s excavations were restricted to the period of Roman occupation but indicated, as have later studies, that Iron Age occupation of the site is likely to have preceded it. His detailed interpretation of the site identified five phases of development between the middle of the 1st century AD and the middle of the 4th century AD. During that time the villa evolved from simple timber structures to a mostly stone-built set of buildings including a corridor-plan dwelling house, a bath suite and a basilican building to the north. In his interpretation of the excavation, Oswald suggested the villa may have had an unusual set of defensive ditches, and proposed that the site could be a rare example of a fortified villa.

No further excavation has been undertaken. Walkover surveys conducted between 1971 and 1975 recovered numerous Roman finds and a possible Bronze Age artefact. Geophysical surveys (using gradiometry and targeted resistivity) and aerial photographic reports conducted in 2018 recorded anomalies which confirm broad elements of Oswald’s detailed plans of the excavated villa.

Land immediately to the west of Folly Lane has been subject to geophysical survey and focused archaeological excavation in 2017 - 2018, revealing the presence of several Iron Age ring ditches and late-Iron Age pottery fragments pre-dating the villa site. In addition, elements of a Roman road likely to provide access to the villa were uncovered. This area does not form part of the scheduling.

Details

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: A Romano-British villa close to the Fosse Way on the route to the large Roman settlement at Lincoln. The evidence suggests that the complex originated in the 1st century AD and continued in occupation to the mid-4th century with evidence of several phases of construction and reconstruction. At its greatest extent it included a corridor dwelling-house, a bath suite, a basilican building and a gatehouse and was enclosed within a series of perimeter ditches.

DESCRIPTION: The villa west of Hill Holt Farm in the Lincolnshire parish of Norton Disney lies within Abbey Field, an agricultural field of approximately six hectares bordered by Folly Lane to the west, open farmland to the north, south and east, and Hill Holt Wood to the north-east. The A46 is approximately 300m north of the site and follows the route of the Roman Fosse Way to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia). 2.5km south-west of the villa was the Roman settlement of Crococalana (Scheduled Monument, National Heritage List entry 1003479).

The villa is not visible at ground level but is evident as a series of buried features, showing as crop marks on aerial photographs and geophysical surveys. The survival of buried archaeological deposits and therefore the archaeological potential of the site are confirmed from Oswald’s excavations. Below-ground the villa complex lies within a broad set of enclosing ditches with an entrance marked by a gatehouse on the eastern side. Within the enclosure there is a rough L-shape to the plan of the villa buildings with a winged corridor dwelling house aligned approximately north-south with a single cell room extending to the south-west. Two mosaic pavements have been recorded here, alongside opus signinum floors. Attached to the north, but slightly offset to the west, is a bath suite with surviving hypocausts to heat the rooms or baths above. The north-east corner of the bath house connects, at right angles, to what Oswald described as a basilican building aligned approximately east-west. The basilican structure contains several small rooms some of which had fine decorated wall plaster. Floor coverings in this building include roof tiles, cement and opus signinum of varying quality. Towards the eastern end a large room containing a concentration of furnaces, ovens and/or hearths led Oswald to interpret this as an area for industrial activity.

Where excavated, features relating to the earliest phase of occupation, and some of those of the later ancillary buildings, indicate timber construction, while later phases were increasingly built using stone walling with tiled and slate covered roofs. Buildings appear to have been rebuilt following destruction by fire. Beyond the core of buildings on the eastern boundary of the enclosure Oswald recorded a 3rd century gatehouse of semi-circular plan. The gatehouse is associated with two phases of 3rd- and 4th-century curvilinear, double-ditches which enclose the site and sits between the ditches’ curved termini. A short stretch of a road surface was recorded linking the gatehouse to the main villa complex.

Dating evidence comes primarily from distinctive pottery types which were found across the site but hypocausts, mosaics and decorative wall plaster were also recorded in the later phases of occupation. Several burials and some disarticulated human remains were documented during excavation. Oswald did not uncover any datable artefacts from after around AD 360 and no subsequent evidence of post-4th century activity has since been found at the site.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: The area of protection follows the boundary of Abbey Field and encloses an area of approximately six hectares.

EXCLUSIONS: Any fences and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 15/12/2020

Legacy

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

Legacy System number:
LI 81
Legacy System:
RSM - OCN

Sources

Books and journals
Oswald, A, 'A Roman Fortified Villa at Norton Disney, Lincs.' in Antiquaries Journal, , Vol. XVII, (1937), 138-178
Other
‘Ancient Scheduled Monument, Villa Farm’, Archaeological Geophysical Survey, Pre-construct Geophysics Ltd (October 2018)
‘Land at Villa Farm’ Archaeological Evaluation Report, PCAS Archaeology Ltd (January 2019)
‘Norton Disney, Lincolnshire: Assessment of Aerial Imagery for Archaeology' Air Photo Services (June 2018)

Legal

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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