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.
Wingham Roman villa is a good example which survives well with a particularly fine bath suite containing tessellated floors. The site has been relatively undisturbed by modern development, which will have allowed good preservation of the buried remains. The probable re-use of the villa site in the later Roman period enhances its interest. The site will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the villa and the landscape in which it was constructed.
The monument includes a minor Roman villa surviving as buried remains. It is situated on low-lying ground, south-east of Wingham Bridge, between a small stream and Wingham Primary School.
The villa is centred on a courtyard with a bath suite on the south side, a large aisled building on the north, another building on the west and is open at the east. The bath suite has a corridor to the north with a complex of rooms to the south and east. The corridor is about 1.7m wide and orientated east-west. At the east end is what is thought to be the apodyterium, which is 1.7m wide but the original length is not known. Evidence suggests that the corridor and apodyterium may originally have been half-timbered structures with sill beams resting on chalk foundations. Running east to west, just to the south of the apodyterium, is a sequence of rooms identified as the frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium, a furnace and a stoking-room. The walls of the frigidarium are built of yellow tiles laid in level courses on the foundations of an earlier room. The walls of the tepidarium, caldarium, furnace and stoking-room survive to 0.7m high and are built of flint and mortar faced internally with yellow tiles laid in courses. The pilae of a hypocaust, supporting a floor above, survive in the tepidarium and caldarium. Several of the rooms contain well-preserved tessellated floors with geometric designs. The furnace at the west end of the caldarium is about 1.2m by 3.5m and may originally have had a water tank above it. The stoking-room to the west is 4.9m long by 3.5m wide. To the south-east of these rooms is a cold plunge bath, which is 2.5m long by 2m wide. It is entered from the frigidarium through an opening in the north wall of the bath-room with steps which lead down to the bottom of the bath. There is a drain at the bottom in the south-west corner that runs through the west wall.
The villa was partially excavated in 1881-2 and 1965-7. Several phases of building were found and the bath suite is thought to have been rebuilt at a later date, at which time the tessellated floors were also laid. Evidence was found of later Roman occupation and re-use of the building with a kiln built on the site of the hypocaust and a quern found on a tessellated pavement.
The finds included Samian ware pottery and Roman coins ranging in date from the late 3rd century to mid 4th century AD. In 1999 an archaeological watching brief was carried out during works in the vicinity of the villa revealing a large Roman ditch, which may have formed part of the north-east boundary of the villa complex.
The monument excludes all modern buildings, the surfaces of all modern roads and driveways, all modern fences and fence posts, gates and gate posts. However the ground beneath all these features is included.
Sources: Kent HER TR 25 NW 14. NMR TR 25 NW 14. PastScape 466356.
Kent OS maps (1:2500): 1872, 1897, 1907, 1937.
Jenkins, F, 'The re-excavation of the Roman 'Villa' at Wingham Part 1', In Archaeologia Cantiana: being contributions to the history and archaeology of Kent, Kent Archaeological Society (1985), Vol 100, 87-99