Roman villa at Kirk Sink


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


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

North Yorkshire
Craven (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SD 93967 53517

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.

Although disturbed by excavation, much of the monument survives below ground and unexcavated. It remains the most westerly of the group of villas centred on the Vale of York. Kirk Sink is at present the only site to have evidence of circular timber and turf built houses, one of which survived in use into the villa period. It also includes a water supply using wooden pipes with iron collars, a system which has only been recognised at this site.


The Roman villa is situated in meadows beside the River Aire, on the site of a former glacial lake which left a large flat expanse of fertile soil. The earthworks are very low and therefore it is difficult to detect the site features at ground level. A double ditch 0.2m deep runs across the field, parallel to the lane which runs from Gargrave to the modern house at Kirk Sink. Two other ditches run at right angles from this to the lane.

The monument is the most westerly of the group of villa sites centred on the Vale of York. It was partially excavated in 1968-1974 by Brian Hartley. The excavations revealed that the villa was surrounded by two ditches, an outer ditch measuring 225m by 100m and an inner ditch measuring 100m by 60m. The earliest buildings on the site were a pair of circular timber and turf built structures, one of which survived in use into the villa period. The earliest Romanized building on the site was a second century corridor type house. This measured 30m by 13m wide with a front corridor and porch on the central entrance between slightly projecting wings. It included a large central room 7m square with mosaic floors. This house went out of use at the end of the third century or the beginning of the fourth and was then demolished.

Alongside the house and roughly contemporary with it was the bath house. This included a cold room with an apsidal plunge bath and drains, with water supplied using wooden pipes with iron collars. Next to it were two heated rooms, one of which included a rectangular recess for a hot water bath. During the early third century two cottage-like houses were built west and south west of the orginal house. Both were 24m long and 9m wide, divided into four rooms, two large, two small and an access corridor. Each house had at least one mosaic floor. Half way between the houses was a rectangular building measuring 10.5m by 9m which again had a mosaic floor. This was at some point linked to the north building by a covered walk. The function of these buildings remains uncertain. The modern field walls are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Hartley, B, Leon Fitts, R, The Brigantes, (1988), 71-85
Allen, T, 'History of Yorkshire' in , , Vol. 6, (1828), 46
Hartley, B, 'The History of Flasby' in The Ecclesiastical Parish of Gargrave, , Vol. 1, (1985), 86
Hartley, B, 'History of Flasby' in Kirk Sink, , Vol. 1, (1985), 90
Whittaker, S, 'History of Craven' in History of Craven, (), 78


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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