Lullingstone Roman villa and Saxon church
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1007463
Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981
Date of most recent amendment: 10-Aug-1994
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Sevenoaks (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TQ 53018 65070
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. 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, 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 to
distinguish them from `major' villas. The latter were a very small group of
extremely substantial and opulent villas built by the very wealthiest members
of Romano-British society. 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
Lullingstone Roman villa survives well containing remains of the full extent of the dwelling-house as well as the foundations of associated ancillary buildings. Partial excavation has demonstrated that the site contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the construction and use of the villa as well as the later reuse of the mausoleum. Along with the other Roman villas located along the Darent Valley, Lullingstone villa will contribute to an understanding of the local economy, social structure and general way of life of the Romano-British inhabitants of the area. The monument also survives as a good example of how villas were later reused, in this case as the site of a Saxon church.
The monument includes a Roman villa and later Saxon church situated on an
east facing slope on the west bank of the River Darent; the villa is one of at
least five located along a 9km stretch of the river.
The villa complex comprises the foundations and other buried remains of the
main dwelling house, aligned north-south and facing east towards the river, a
separate kitchen, a mausoleum and a circular building further west, as well as
a granary with other associated agricultural remains.
The main building is situated on a terrace cut into the slope of the valley,
located c.50m west of the river, and measures 32m north-south by 20m
east-west. It survives as visible foundations, floors and walls, which were
left uncovered after excavation so that they could be displayed to the public,
as well as other below ground features which remain buried. The building
includes heated rooms, a cellar, verandahs, kitchens, baths, a dining room and
audience chamber (both with mosaic floors), bedrooms and store rooms.
To the rear of the main villa building are the remains of a separate kitchen,
9m east-west by 6.5m wide, dated to the early second century AD. This too is
constructed on a terrace cut into the hillside. Six metres to the north are
the remains of the mausoleum. Constructed in the early fourth century on a
terrace 6m above the main house it became incorporated into Lullingstone
church in the Late Saxon period. This is no longer upstanding and has
previously been recorded as "the remains of the lost church of St John the
Baptist, Lullingstone". Ten metres further north are the foundations of a
circular building, c.5m in diameter, the purpose of which is presently
unclear. Between the villa and the river the remains of a courtyard are
believed to survive. On the north side of this the foundations of a large
granary building have been excavated which measure 24.4m east-west by 10.7m
The villa was discovered in 1939 although the presence of a Roman building in
the vicinity had been suspected since the late 18th century. Excavations began
in 1949 which revealed the various phases of construction and history of the
building. Originally built in c.AD 75 from timber-and-daub it was rebuilt in
the second century using flint and tile and although it underwent constant
change it retained a winged corridor plan. This comprised a rectangular range
of rooms, aligned north-south, fronted on the east side by an open verandah
which to the north and south led into large rooms projecting forward from the
verandah wall. Between AD 200 and AD 275 there was serious decay to the villa
which led the excavator to conclude that the house may have been abandoned.
Coins and pottery recovered from the villa, however, do not indicate a break
of occupation, only that the buildings suffered neglect. It was at this time
that the kitchen was converted to use as a tannery. At the end of the third
century the north side of the villa was remodelled and in the mid fourth
century the large apsed dining room was built and mosaic laid. In about AD 360
the north rooms were converted into a Christian chapel while occupation
continued until the fifth century when a serious fire gutted much of the
house. The villa was abandoned in about AD 420.
Excluded from the scheduling are the cover building, toilets, signs, wooden
seats, bins, fences, gates, tarmac road surface and carpark surface although
the ground beneath all these features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 23025
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Meates, G W, Lullingstone Roman Villa, (1955)
Meates, G W , Lullingstone Roman Villa, (1979)
Neal, D S, Lullingstone Roman Villa, (1991), 19-20
Neal, D S, Lullingstone Roman Villa, (1991)
'Gentleman's Magazine' in Lullingstone Roman Villa, (1823)
'Gentleman's Magazine' in Gentleman's Magazine, (1823)
Ordnance Survey, TQ 56 NW 57,
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