Minor Romano British villa 95m NNW of Whitestaunton Church.
Reasons for Designation
Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates with groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings at the focus. The term "villa" is now commonly used to describe either the estate or the buildings themselves. 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, under-floor 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. They are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled to fit changing circumstances. They could serve a wide variety of uses alongside agricultural activities, including administrative, recreational and craft functions, and this is reflected in the considerable diversity in their plan. 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. 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. Despite partial excavation, the minor Romano British villa 95m NNW of Whitestaunton Church survives comparatively well and will contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, longevity, social, political and economic significance, agricultural practices, trade, industrial activity, domestic arrangements, abandonment and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 2 September 2015. This 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.
This monument includes a minor Romano British villa situated in the valley of an unnamed tributary to the River Yarty. The villa survives as largely buried structures, deposits and layers with a series of low walls measuring on average 0.6m wide and up to 0.5m high as visible surface remains. Discovered during road widening works, partial excavations in 1845 by Charles Elton revealed living and bath rooms with colonnade facing and alcoves, hypocausts, geometric mosaics, painted wall plaster, flue tiles, roofing slates and many finds including Samian and other types of pottery, window glass, glass objects, bone, lead piping and iron slag. Subsequent partial excavations by Time Team in 2003 suggested the finds had come predominantly from the bath house. The area of the villa lies under deep deposits of waterlogged material and structures associated with a 19th century ornamental water garden.
The protruding white stone walls of the villa are believed to have formed the basis of the place name ’Whitestaunton’ in the Saxon period.