Roman settlement and drove at Fen Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013482

Date first listed: 08-Feb-1995


Ordnance survey map of Roman settlement and drove at Fen Farm
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Jan-2019 at 10:07:39.


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

County: Lincolnshire

District: South Kesteven (District Authority)

Parish: Horbling

National Grid Reference: TF 16525 34526


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

Reasons for Designation

During the Roman period, particularly during the second century AD, the Fenland silts around the Wash and areas on and close to the margins of the peat fens were extensively and often densely occupied and farmed. Rural settlements were small, comprising individual farmsteads or, more often, groups of several farmsteads organised in small villages which, with their associated field systems, were aligned along droves. Droves also served to link loose clusters of neighbouring settlements in a branching and intersecting network which might extend over several kilometres. The pattern of settlement was determined chiefly by the requirements of stock management and animal husbandry, exploiting pastures on the silts and higher ground, and the summer grazing and winter fodder provided by the adjacent freshwater fens. Although arable agriculture was almost certainly practised also, there was an element of self sufficiency in craft production and in the exploitation of local resources. Each farmstead was normally contained within a rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosure or block of enclosures, demarcated by substantial ditches and including low, thatched buildings of clay and wattle and daub on a light timber frame, with working areas such as farmyard, stockyard, rickyards and gardens alongside. Often the buildings were sited on natural hummocks or on artificially raised platforms. The earliest of such settlements, which are dated to the later first century AD, are generally very small and differ little in general appearance from certain settlements of the preceding Iron Age, although Iron Age settlements in the Fenland region are not so numerous or widespread. During the second century, when small and large-scale engineering projects, including the construction of roads and canals, were carried out widely in the Fens, the size and complexity of the settlements tended to increase and the layout of droves and fields to become more regular. Many were, however, abandoned in the third century AD because of increasing problems of flooding and drainage. Numerous Roman settlements of this type, with their associated field systems, have been recorded in the Fens, particularly through air photography, and they serve to illustrate both the nature of small-scale farming during the period of the Roman occupation and the ways in which a local population adapted to and exploited a particular environment. Many of the sites have, however, been reduced by medieval and later agriculture, and very few remain with upstanding earthworks, with a varied range of identifiable features and/or evidence for the survival of environmental remains. Consequently, all sites which survive as earthworks or which have a varied range of identifiable features are considered to be of national importance.

The Roman settlement site at Fen Farm is one of the best preserved and most complete of those which survive as earthworks. The relatively small areas in the north eastern and southern parts of the monument which have been ploughed also retain archaeological deposits and features of significance to the settlement site as a whole. The monument will retain a wide range of archaeological information concerning the organisation, development and duration of the settlement, and evidence for domestic life, farming practices and the local environment will be preserved in deposits on and beneath the building platforms, in the infill of the ditches and in the soils within the enclosures. The site has additional interest as part of an extensive landscape of settlements, droves and field systems which has been recorded by means of air photography.


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


The monument includes the site of a Roman settlement, located on a wide roddon (extinct watercourse) in the silt fen and comprising five or more enclosed farmsteads, with their associated yards and paddocks, clustered around a drove junction. The greater part of the settlement survives under pasture, where the ditches on either side of the droves, and the ditches and platforms which define the yards, buildings, paddocks and fields of each farmstead, are visible as low earthworks. In the north eastern and extreme southern parts of the monument which are under cultivation, the pattern of the underlying ditches is traceable in lines of darker ploughsoil.

The principal drove, which is the focus of the settlement, follows a slightly wandering diagonal course north west - south east across the site, branching at the junction towards the southern end. It has an overall width of between 16m and 25m, including the ditches which border it, which have become largely infilled but are marked by linear hollows approximately 5m wide and 0.4m deep in the ground surface. Another, much shorter, ditched track of similar width runs approximately parallel to it on the west side, following a zigzag course along the boundaries of fields and enclosures which probably predate it. On either side of the main drove, and roughly aligned with it, are the rectilinear enclosures of the farmsteads and their adjoining fields, defined by ditches which remain open to a width of approximately 4m and a depth of up to 0.5m. The larger enclosures of the farmyards measure up to 80m by 70m, and contained within, or immediately adjoining them are groups of smaller rectangular enclosures with internal dimensions of between 8m by 9m and 12m by 15m. The interior of many of the smaller enclosures is slightly raised, forming natural or artificial platforms which are considered to be the sites of buildings. Other associated enclosures, including fields and paddocks, are of varying size and proportion.

The modern farm building south of Fen Farm, the modern field boundary fences, hedges, gates and supports for electric fencing within the pasture fields are all excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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: 20812

Legacy System: RSM


Cambridge University Collection AKN 54,
Cambridge University Collection AKN 55,
Dossier for H B M C, Fenland Evaluation Project: Lincolnshire, (1990)
Wesley, B, (1993)

End of official listing