Roman villa 200m east of Howletts


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Roman villa 200m east of Howletts
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Chelmsford (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 66265 10860

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 200m east of Howletts survives well below the ploughsoil as has been confirmed by the excavation of archaeological deposits to the south of the scheduling. It is the only Roman villa in Essex for which a courtyard layout of the main dwelling building is known. The undisturbed deposits of the villa building, the ditches and other buried features contain information about the construction and layout of the villa and its associated buildings and agricultural practices. Artefacts and deposits containing environmental evidence will add to our understanding of the lifestyle and economy of the inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.


The monument includes a Roman villa situated on a south west facing, gentle slope overlooking the River Can.

The villa was recognised in 1974 during crop spraying. Visible as a cropmark, the layout of the building has been plotted from aerial photographs. Concentrations of Roman material in the ploughsoil are also visible at ground level. These indicate the locations of buried archaeological deposits although there are no visible upstanding features. The buried features include the foundations of buildings, pits and ditches.

The main villa building surrounds a rectangular internal courtyard c.33m north-south by 28m east-west. Around this is a corridor with rooms laid out on three sides, to the north, east and west. The total area of the known building foundations measures c.47m by 57m. This building is situated within a large ditched polygonal enclosure which is believed to have covered an area of c.4.2ha. To the east of the villa building the boundary comprises six separate but parallel ditches covering a width of c.30m, although to the north and west the cropmarks may indicate fewer ditches.

Since its discovery the area of the monument has been field walked. This has located quantities of Roman building material and pottery sherds. From 1977 to 1984 excavations were undertaken in advance of mineral extraction to the south and south west of the main building within the southern part of the enclosure and to the south of it. These have revealed material and features from the Mesolithic through to the medieval period. The earliest features associated with and inside the enclosure are of first century date AD with evidence of the occupation until the fourth century AD. Timber-posted granaries and other associated agricultural buildings have been identified in the southern part of the enclosure and further similar buildings are believed to survive in the area around the main building.

Excluded from the scheduling is the trackway which runs east-west across the north of the monument, 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Priddy, D, Buckley, D G, An Assessment of Excavated Enclosures in Essex, (1987), 70-1
Clarke, C P, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Excavations in Essex, , Vol. Vol 11, (1979), 101
Clarke, P, Couchman, C, Eddy, M, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Excavations in Essex, , Vol. Vol 10, (1978), 241
Clarke, C P, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Excavations in Essex, , Vol. Vol 13, (1981), 50
Clarke, C P, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Excavations in Essex, , Vol. Vol 14, (1982), 135
Cambridge University Collection, BVA 39, 40, (1975)
Cambridge University Collection, BXB 51, (1976)
ECC, Essex Sites and Monuments Record PRN 1040, (1974)


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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