Minor Romano-British villa 650m north-east of Hewish Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Minor Romano-British villa 650m north-east of Hewish Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Somerset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 40509 65243

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 important.

The site of the minor Romano-British villa 650m north-east of Hewish Farm survives well and is known from partial excavation to contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the Levels landscape in which it was constructed. The monument is of unusual form, perhaps reflecting its unusual setting. This is one of only very few such sites to have been identified on the Somerset Levels.


The monument includes the site of a minor Romano-British villa situated 650m north-east of Hewish Farm on low-lying ground adjacent to the River Congresbury Yeo in the area of the Somerset Levels.

The villa, which was discovered in 1884, is orientated northwest-southeast and now occupies a low depression c.1m deep, 22m from east to west and 50m from north to south. The depression is likely to have been created during partial excavation of the site in 1884. Traces of the villa are visible as low turf-covered banks c.0.2m high and 4m wide.

The excavations exposed much of the building and the structure was found to have an unusual rectilinear form, with most rooms situated at its north- western end. The bath suite was situated near to the rear of the building where there were also traces of a staircase.

The eastern range, which included the main entrance, is located towards the river and can be traced as far as the modern flood defence bank. The building may have been associated with a dock or quay; however, this cannot be confirmed, as the more recent flood defence bank obscures the relationship between the terminal of the building and the riverside.

Partial excavation produced the remains of five mosiac floors together with a tessellated pavement, two hypocausts and several furnaces. Some of the rooms were also decorated with painted wall plaster. Other finds include 21 coins dated to between AD 250-360, sherds of samian pottery, sherds of Romano- British coarse wares, glass, iron and bone objects, bricks, tiles and roofing slates.

The surrounding field contains earthworks, some of which are contemporary with the villa, but most relate to the post-medieval drainage of the Levels. To the north of the villa are two enclosures with dimensions of 21m from east to west and 30m from north to south. These are likely to represent Romano-British features as both differ significantly in form from the surrounding post- medieval earthworks. It is likely that stock or other provisions were kept within these enclosures as they are situated on slightly higher ground than the villa and would have been above the water-level for most of the year.

A Roman stone coffin containing a human burial in fragments of a lead coffin was also discovered within the field surrounding the villa in 1828, although the precise location is not known.

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.

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Books and journals
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306-7
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306-7


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

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