Roman villa south of Alphamstone church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011807

Date first listed: 07-Aug-1995


Ordnance survey map of Roman villa south of Alphamstone church
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1011807 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 16-Jan-2019 at 08:07:17.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Braintree (District Authority)

Parish: Alphamstone

National Grid Reference: TL 87885 35387


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.

The Roman villa to the south of Alphamstone church survives well beneath the ploughsoil. The collection of building material and artefacts from the surface scatter indicates the diversity of features within the villa complex. These deposits will contain information about construction and layout of the villa and its associated buildings, whilst the associated artefactual information and any environmental deposits which survive at the base of the archaeological sequence will add to our understanding of the lifestyle and economy of the inhabitants and of the landscape in which they lived. Such information will help elucidate the extent and nature of Roman rural settlement across south east England.


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


The monument includes a Roman villa complex situated to the south of Alphamstone church. This lies on the crest of an east facing slope in an area of undulating mixed boulder clay and gravel hills. The location of the villa is known through a surface scatter of building material and pottery sherds within the ploughsoil. The scatter marks the site of buried features and deposits which include wall foundations, pits and ditches. The southern boundary of the churchyard lies on the line of a rubble and mortar wall believed to be of Roman date. Further wall foundations as well as burnt material indicating the presence of occupation deposits within the ploughsoil have been noted extending from this wall to the south. Fragments of tegulae and imbrices (both are types of roof tile indicating the presence of buildings roofed in tile), box flue tile, tesserae and pottery have been found in substantial quantities in the ploughsoil extending across an area c.100m east-west and c.120m north-south. Many fragments of Roman brick and tile have also been recovered from grave digging within the churchyard. A cropmark has been noted at TL87873540 comprising a rectangle 10m x 7m. This area was surveyed in 1993 and large quantities of Roman building material were noted. The area of the cropmark indicates the location of one of the main buildings within the villa complex. Other recent finds from the monument include painted wall plaster which suggests that the villa complex included at least one prestigious building. The standing churchyard wall is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it 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: 24872

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Powell, W R, The Victoria History of the County of Essex, (1963), 35
Wallace, C, Essex Archaeology and History, (1992), 91
Havis, R, (1993)
Ordnance Survey, 74-A90-330, (1950)
Ordnance Survey, TL 83 NE 08, (1976)

End of official listing