Roman villa 450m west of Bury Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011808

Date first listed: 18-Nov-1965

Date of most recent amendment: 30-Jun-1995


Ordnance survey map of Roman villa 450m west of Bury Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Chelmsford (District Authority)

Parish: Pleshey

National Grid Reference: TL 65074 14346


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 450m west of Bury Farm survives well below the ploughsoil; surprisingly (for a site known for nearly 250 years) little disturbance of the monument has taken place. The presence of the columbarium is of particular interest as it is a rare feature to find in this context. The villa complex deposits will contain information about the 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 sequence will add to our understanding of the life-style and economy of the inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.


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


The monument includes the remains of a Roman villa situated on a very gentle south east facing slope. The villa comprises a complex of buried features and deposits which include the remains of at least one substantial masonry building and a columbarium (a brick lined vault with shelves and niches for jars and bottles containing cremation burials). The villa was originally recognised in the 18th century when a piece of mosaic pavement was found in 1749-50. The columbarium was discovered c.1780 when burials and coins were recovered. In 1947, after ploughing, it was noticed that there were gravel lines on the ground surface indicating the locations of wall foundations. These formed the outline of an E-plan building at the north edge of the field. The area of the main concentration of Roman building material covers an area of c.100m square, although occasional fragments of tile have been found across the whole field. Other surface finds have included part of a bronze ewer, bronze ornaments, as well as fragments of pottery and glass vessels.

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: 24873

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County, (1963), 166-7
Green, H J M, AM 7, (1949)
Chant, K, AM107, (1983)
Essex Sites and Monuments Record PRN 1170, (1985)
Essex Sites and Monuments Record PRN 5992, (1985)
Rodwell, W, (1969)

End of official listing