Romano-British villa at Cockle Pits, near Brantingham


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Romano-British villa at Cockle Pits, near Brantingham
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 93166 28819

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.

Despite partial excavation of this site in 1948 and 1962 during which mosaic pavements were removed, significant structural remains of this villa survive. The excavations here confirmed that the villa was built in a landscape which was already well used for agriculture and other purposes, and where settlement from the Iron Age Parisi tribe was already established. Further information on the changing use of landscape and of settlement in this area will be preserved.


The monument includes the remains of a Romano-British villa situated in fields to the north of gravel quarries at Cockle Pits. The site of the villa was first discovered in 1941, when two mosaics were discovered during works at Cockle Pits stone quarry. These were later removed to Hull Museum in 1948, and one has since disappeared. In 1962, excavations took place following the discovery of the remains of another mosaic pavement 70m to the north of the quarry in 1961. These excavations yielded the remains of a villa including a very large room with a tessellated floor measuring 11.13m by 7.77m, a corridor and the remains of four other rooms, three of which had tessellated floors. Adjoining field systems, enclosures and ditches, visible from the air as distinctive marks in agricultural crops to the west of the villa, were excavated in 1983, revealing Iron Age ditched enclosures overlain by the remains of three rectangular buildings dating to the second and the fourth centuries AD, culminating in the existing villa. The Brantingham Iron Age settlement of the Parisi tribe was situated on the crest of a limestone ridge overlooking the valley of the Humber and the Vale of York, probably an important routeway throughout the prehistoric period. The arrival of the Romans here resulted in the construction of the main Lincoln to York Roman road which was next to the native settlement here. The Late Iron Age defended settlement described above ultimately developed into the large country house, or villa, as found during the course of the excavations here. All modern fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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.

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Books and journals
Loughlin, N, Miller, K R , Archaeological Sites in Humberside, (1979), 24
Dent, J, 'New Light on the Parisi' in Settlements at North Cave and Brantingham, (1987), 26-32
Liversidge, J, Smith, D J, Stead, I M, 'Britannia' in Britannia 4, , Vol. 4, (1973), 84-106
Slack, P E, 'Roman Yorkshire in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Report On A Roman Villa At Brantingham, E. Yorks., , Vol. 37, (1951), 514-20
Humberside SMR, Sites and Monuments Records Sheet, (1994)


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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