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. Some were built directly on the sites of Iron Age farmsteads, which is likely to have been the case at this site in the Chilgrove valley. These were a small group of circular domestic buildings and associated agricultural structures, which where excavated are often found to contain pits or rectangular post-built structures for the storage of grain and other produce.
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.
The Iron Age farmstead and Roman villa, 360m SSW of Brickkiln Farm, survive well and have been shown by partial excavation to contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the farmstead and villa and the landscape in which they were constructed. The monument is of particular significance for possible continuity in occupation between the Iron Age and Roman period, providing evidence for agricultural practices and management of the landscape over a long period.
The monument includes an Iron Age farmstead and Roman villa, known as 'Chilgrove I', surviving as upstanding walling and below-ground archaeological evidence. It is situated at the foot of Chilgrove valley, east of Stoughton in the South Downs.
Iron Age occupation on the site is represented by a circular hut, a hearth and a probable rectangular building. The circular hut is defined by postholes situated outside the north end of the later Roman farmyard. The probable rectangular building is defined by postholes inside the yard. The hearth is situated just to the north of this building and was found in association with a concentration of Iron Age pottery sherds.
The villa is now partially exposed as low flint walling. There were several succeeding phases of Roman occupation, which at its height included a minor Roman villa of corridor-plan type. The earliest Roman occupation is indicated by several 1st century AD pits followed by the construction of a rectangular building with flint footings. In the 3rd century AD, a larger villa was constructed on the same plan with a farmyard and agricultural buildings. It is about 43m long by 12m wide and orientated north-east to south-west. There is a corridor running along the south-east length of the building and a bathhouse at the south-west end. The remains of the villa include stone columns, hypocausts and tessellated pavements. The farmyard extended 61m north to south and was entered through a timber gateway on the east side. Postholes outside the north wall indicate the site of a granary. In the 4th century AD, the bathhouse was altered and several mosaics and hypocausts were added. In the late 4th century, the villa was partly robbed for building stone and ironworking took place on the site before it was partially destroyed by fire and abandoned.
The site was identified from cropmarks on aerial photographs and subsequently underwent partial excavation between 1963 and 1969. The finds included Iron Age pottery, a Roman statuette of Fortuna, Roman coins, stone roofing tiles and early 2nd to late 4th century pottery.
The monument excludes all marker posts, modern fences and fence posts, gates and gate posts but the ground beneath these features is included.
Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity of this monument but are not included because they have not been formally assessed. The Iron Age and Romano-British dwellings are likely to be associated with a field system identified to the south. The field system was recorded as field banks on aerial photographs taken in 1947 but has since been largely levelled through ploughing.
Sources: West Sussex HER 972 - MWS2046, 970 - MWS5388. NMR SU81SW59. PastScape 246688.