Romano-British villa, Anglo-Saxon cemetery and associated remains at Eccles


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011770

Date first listed: 05-Oct-1998


Ordnance survey map of Romano-British villa, Anglo-Saxon cemetery and associated remains at Eccles
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Tonbridge and Malling (District Authority)

Parish: Aylesford

National Grid Reference: TQ 72241 60542


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

Partial excavation and geophysical survey have confirmed aerial photographic evidence for the survival below-ground of Eccles Roman villa, a particularly large and grand example of its kind. Its association with contemporary pottery wasters, discovered at the nearby site of a later, medieval pottery kiln (since destroyed), helps illustrate the nature of the mixed industrial and agricultural economy necessary to support the sophisticated lifestyle of the villa's inhabitants. The investigations also revealed an earlier Iron Age farmstead, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery which reused the site of the abandoned villa, and traces of subsequent occupation in the medieval period. Taken together these remains provide important evidence for changing settlement and land-use over a period of almost 2000 years.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a Romano-British villa, an earlier Iron Age farmstead, a later Anglo-Saxon cemetery and traces of medieval occupation situated on low- lying clay on the eastern bank of the River Medway, around 6km north west of Maidstone. The remains survive in the form of below-ground archaeological features, some of which are visible as crop marks on aerial photographs. Investigations carried out between 1963-76 confirmed that the large villa complex, in use between around AD 55 to AD 400, took the form of a group of north west-south east aligned domestic, agricultural and ancillary buildings, situated on the north eastern side of a rectangular courtyard. Traces of a contemporary, north west-south east aligned track were found to the north west of the main buildings. The villa underwent at least four main phases of construction, preceded by an earlier phase represented by a small, rectangular granary and an associated length of boundary wall, dating to AD 55-AD 65. The first known villa was in use between AD 65-AD 180, and its domestic range took the form of a north east facing, rectangular building 75.5m long and 13m wide, constructed upon ragstone footings. The building contained at least 12 rooms flanked by a wooden verandah to the rear. A detached, ancillary building containing workshops lay to the north west and utilised a well-preserved water-supply system constructed of wooden pipes held together by iron collars. The villa was served by an unusually elaborate detached bath house, with mosaic floors and a loconicum, or circular bath, heated by a hypocaust, or underfloor heating system. This first bath house was found to have been damaged by fire, leading to the construction of a replacement bath building. Enclosing the villa buildings at this time was a boundary ditch 3m wide and around 1.4m deep. The second main phase, from AD 120-AD 180, involved alterations to the domestic range, including the replacement of the wooden verandah by a stone built corridor and the construction of a servants' wing adjoining its north western end. A period of radical rebuilding and alteration took place between AD 180-AD 290, when the villa was reorientated to face the river to the south west. A further corridor was built on the north eastern side of the main range, and large projecting wings were added to either end. Each new wing contained grain drying ovens and, along with the rooms at the south eastern end of the main range, was found to have been used for agricultural and industrial processing. The bath house was extended and linked to the main range by a roofed corridor. A cobbled courtyard and garden were laid out to the south west, and a stone boundary wall enclosed the courtyard and villa complex. Building phases between AD 290 to AD 400 involved the modification of existing structures, and by this time the main range contained at least 37 rooms. However, from around AD 367, the villa complex appears to have been occupied on a reduced scale. The 1963-76 investigations revealed a number of human burials of Roman date deposited beneath the villa floors, a common practice during this period. Further finds included fragments of Roman pottery, coins and building debris, and a rare lead defixio, or curse tablet, dating to Late Roman times. A group of regular linear features visible on aerial photographs in the south eastern sector of the monument, and also identified by a geophysical survey carried out in 1996, may represent a contemporary, associated field system. Situated beneath and around the villa are traces of an earlier, Iron Age farmstead, represented by a group of linear boundary ditches and pits. A later Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery was found to have partially disturbed the eastern end of the main range of the earlier villa and the adjacent ground. The cemetery is formed by at least 200 east-west aligned graves containing extended human skeletons. Some later graves were found to have been superimposed upon earlier burials, suggesting that the cemetery was in use over several centuries. Some of the earliest burials were accompanied by grave goods, or artefacts deliberately deposited with the bodies, indicating pagan burials during the period AD 450-AD 600. Towards the south east of the cemetery are a group of post holes which have been interpreted as a shrine, temple or small chapel. Signs of the subsequent reuse of the site during the medieval period include cesspits and rough cobbling beyond its courtyard boundary wall. Analysis of pottery shards associated with these features has dated them to the 13th century. During this period the earlier villa was disturbed by the systematic removal of Roman building material, much of which was reused in the construction of the monastery at Aylesford 2km to the south east. A group of indistinct crop marks and magnetic anomalies picked up by the 1996 geophysical survey in the area beyond the monument to the south west may represent further, associated archaeological features, although these are not well enough understood at present to merit inclusion in the scheduling.

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: 25471

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Barker, P , Report for Lawson-Price Environmental on a Geophysical Survey
'Romano British Countryside' in Romano British Countryside: Volume II, , Vol. BAR 103, (1982), 442&444
Detsicas, Dr A, A Roman Villa at Eccles. 15 interim reports from 1963-1977, 1963,
Detsicas, Dr A, A Roman Villa at Eccles. 15 interim reports from 1963-1977, 1963,
Detsicas, Dr A, A Roman Villa at Eccles. 15 interim reports from 1963-1977, 1963,
Detsicas, Dr A, A Roman Villa at Eccles. 15 interim reports from 1963-1977, 1963,
Dr A Detsicas, (1994)
Shaw, R, Anglo-Sexon cemetery at Eccles: A preliminary report,

End of official listing