Whatley Combe Roman villa
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1006188
Date first listed: 05-Nov-1954
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 74316 47005
Minor Romano British villa 310m south of Combe Farm.
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. Although much is known about the minor Romano British villa 310m south of Combe Farm it will retain 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 17 August 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 Roman British villa situated on a relatively gentle north facing slope overlooking the valley of the Egford Brook at Whatley Combe. It survives as predominantly buried structures, layers and deposits with a slight raised earthwork indicating the position of the dwelling house. The villa was discovered and partially excavated in 1837 with further investigations in 1848. More partial excavations took place in 1958 and 1962. The villa dwelling house plan included ranges of buildings around at least three sides of a central square courtyard. The southern range, partly excavated in the 19th century included a triclinium at the western end with a mosaic pavement. To the east end was a bath suite. Trenches taken across the rooms of each range through the various phases of excavation indicated the villa was built in around 300 AD, partially destroyed in 350 AD but occupied until at least 370 AD. Finds included pottery, bronze spoons, a dolphin brooch and some coins. To the south east of the main dwelling a semi-circular limestone spring basin was discovered. Further buildings extended to the north. It is known locally as ‘Whatley Combe Roman Villa’.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: SO 282
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
PastScape Monument No:-202781
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