Otford Roman villa
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1005155
Date first listed: 22-Feb-1955
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Sevenoaks (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TQ 53647 59203
Otford Roman Villa, 200m south-west of Beechy Lees Lodge
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 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, 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 and are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled to fit changing circumstances. 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.
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. 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.
Despite some disturbance by partial excavation and modern development, Otford Roman Villa is a good example of its type, which survives well. It retains potential for further investigation, which will reveal further evidence regarding the ground plan and phasing of the villa. The site will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the villa and the landscape in which it was constructed.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 19 June 2014. 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 minor Roman villa surviving as buried remains. It is situated on the lower slopes of a steep escarpment forming the east side of the Darenth Valley in the South Downs.
The villa was part uncovered by excavation in the 20th century but has since been backfilled. It includes a corridor to the south-west and a courtyard, about 15m away, to the north-east. The corridor is about 2.5m wide with walls constructed of ironstone slabs to the west and flint to the east. In 1927, painted plaster was recorded on the interior of the walls but subsequent frosts led to its collapse. There are at least three rooms branching off from the corridor. Postholes have been identified in the line of, or under, the walls. The courtyard to the north-east is rectangular in plan and orientated broadly north-east to south-west. It is approximately 18m long by 12m wide externally. The walls are constructed of chalk rubble upon which are rows of flint. At least part of the interior and the exterior to the north-west is paved with flint. A break in the south-east wall indicates that the entrance is sited at this point. A possible ‘cellar’ building with stone steps has been cut in the north-east end of the south-east wall at a later date. To the south-east of the courtyard is a kiln built of chalk and ironstone.
The villa was partially excavated in 1927-8 and 1971. The finds included Roman coins ranging from an Agrippa, AD 37, to Magnentius coins, AD350-353; Samian ware, Castor ware and Coarse ware pottery; oyster shells; animal bones; and small finds such as an Iron Age fibula, a Roman fibula, rings, bracelets and a bronze gilt bust of a woman.
The villa is considered to have been built in the mid first century AD and the kiln a short time later. It is thought to have been burnt down towards the end of the second century AD, although the courtyard probably continued in use as a livestock refuge after this date. The possible ‘cellar’ building is thought to have been occupied in the 4th century AD.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: KE 150
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Pearce, B, 'Kent Archaeological Society, Vol 42' in The Roman Site at Otford’, In Archaeologia Cantiana: being contributions to the history and archaeology of Kent, (1930), 157-71
Kent HER TQ 55 NW 3. NMR TQ 55 NW 3. PastScape 409588,
Kent OS Maps (1:2500): 1894, 1896, 1909, 1938,
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