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
Partial excavation has demonstrated that Rock Roman villa will contain
archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the villa and
the landscape in which it was constructed. This villa is one of only seven to
have been identified on the island, and thus is essential to an understanding
of the Romano-British period on the Isle of Wight.
The monument includes a Roman villa situated on a south east facing slope
c.140m east of a spring which lies in the valley bottom.
The building is of a corridor house type on a terrace cut into the hillside,
but this is not visible at ground level.
Partial excavation in 1975 has confirmed that the building includes a corridor
lying north west-south east fronting a range of at least five rooms which lay
to the north east of the corridor. The north wall of the building remained
standing to 1.4m high. The interior walls had been decorated with painted
plaster and the building roofed with limestone tiles. At the south east corner
of the corridor an extension wing was butted onto the original structure, and
the north, west and east sides of the main structure were surrounded by a
U-shaped ditch. Coins and pottery dated the original structure to A.D.275-300.
During the excavation two infant burials were located, and it was found that a
corn dryer had been inserted into the villa in c.375-400 when the original
building was in a dilapidated state.
In c.1831 remains of a hypocaust were found at the site, while during
agricultural work in the 19th century, mortared stone was often encountered in
the field. Burnt material including human bones was also found and a stone
lined grave was discovered. An air photograph of 1924 provides no evidence for
other substantial masonry buildings on the site.
The post and wire fence which marks the boundary line of the monument on its
south side is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.