Chiddingfold Roman villa, 460m WNW of White Beech Farm.
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 term "villa" is now commonly used to describe either the estate or the buildings themselves. 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. 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. 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 damage by ploughing and disturbance by partial excavation in the past, Chiddingfold Roman Villa survives well. It has been shown by excavation to retain archaeological evidence relating to the history and use of the site. It will also contain environmental information relating to the villa and the landscape in which it was constructed.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 27 November 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 below-ground archaeological remains. It is situated on the east-facing slope of a prominent hill near Vann Lane, east of Chiddingfold.
The villa covers an area of at least 110m by 60m with below-ground sandstone foundations marking the position of the walls of about 50 rooms and isolated structures. The large complex of rooms includes what was identified as an atrium or courtyard in the southern part of the site with an entrance to the south and a colonnade or corridor on the east and west sides. To the north is a rectangular bath block with apsidal end, a ‘living room’ with a hypocaust, ‘apartments’ and a large room with a tessellated pavement. Further north is a later ‘kitchen’ with a hearth and many small rectangular rooms and later additions. On the eastern side of the site, near the atrium is a possible stable block and outbuildings. The earliest finds from the site have been Mesolithic microliths. Roman finds include a bronze face mask; a bronze ibis head; a bronze bowl or strainer; several brooches; coins of Antonius Pius, Tetricus, Carausius and Constantine the Great; tile; Samian and greyware pottery; and glass. The pottery and glass finds indicate a main period of occupation between about AD 130 and 270. The general plan of the villa has been compared to examples at Titsey and Beddington. It is likely to have been based on an agricultural economy and may have been accessed by nearby streams.
The site was recorded in 1883 and partially excavated between 1888 and 1889. Between 2002 and 2008, field recording, partial excavation and geophysical survey were carried out on or near the villa site. The geophysical survey provided evidence for a D-shaped enclosure with subsidiary rectangular enclosures and an entrance trackway, of possible Iron Age date, underlying the site of the villa.