Callow Hill Roman villa


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014750

Date first listed: 17-Apr-1996

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Jan-1997


Ordnance survey map of Callow Hill Roman villa
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Stonesfield

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Wootton

National Grid Reference: SP 40981 19440

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 Callow Hill Roman villa is known from aerial photographs to survive well below the level of recent agricultural disturbance. Part excavation has demonstrated that archaeological and environmental evidence survive relating to the construction of the villa, the economy of its inhabitants and the landscape in which it was built.


The monument includes an enclosed Roman villa situated on a broad ridge known as Callow Hill. The villa enclosure lies 200m south of a stream which runs east-west through a narrow valley known as Ditchley Dell and the Devil's Pool. The villa enclosure lies less than c.100m west of a series of earlier Iron Age linear earthworks which form part of the Grim's Dyke and which are the subject of a separate scheduling. The villa lies within a roughly rectangular enclosure measuring 138m from north-south and 216m from east-west. Its boundary is formed by a ditch which has become infilled due to cultivation. However, it is known from aerial photographs and part excavation in the early 1950s to survive buried below the modern ground level and measures c.5m wide and c.2m deep. The excavated evidence included pottery sherds which date the enclosure's construction to the last quarter of the first century AD and suggest that it continued in use until the later half of the fourth century. Within the enclosure lies a small corridor house villa similar in form to those of the so-called Ditchley type, named after an example located less than 1km to the north west. However, the enclosure at Callow Hill is considerably larger than that at Ditchley. The building is aligned east-west with its entrance facing south. It lies close to the north side of the enclosure, roughly halfway along it. Further features within the enclosure include a well in front of the house, a number of internal boundary walls which divide the enclosure and further traces of less substantial buildings which are just visible on aerial photographs. The location of the villa enclosure, adjacent to the extensive Iron Age earthworks which form part of the Grim's Ditch system, indicates that the villa may lie on the site of an earlier settlement. This interpretation is supported by the finding of quantities of pre-Roman Iron Age pottery on the site during part excavation. Excluded from the scheduling are the post and wire boundary fences which cross it, the surface of the B4437 road and the track north towards Kingswood Brake, although the ground beneath all of these features, including the road, is included in the scheduling.

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: 28126

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Taylor, M V, 'A History of the County of Oxfordshire' in Romano-British Remains, Country Houses, (1970), 313-314
Taylor, M V, 'A History of the County of Oxfordshire' in Romano-British Remains, Country Houses, (1970), 313-4
Thomas, N, Hunter, A, 'Oxoniensia' in Notes and News 10, , Vol. XV 1950, (1952), 108
Thomas, N, Hunter, A, 'Oxoniensia' in Notes and News 10, , Vol. XV 1950, (1952), 108
Thomas, N, Hunter, A, 'Oxoniensia' in Notes and News 10, , Vol. XV 1950, (1952), 108
Scheduling proposal SM 28127, Jeffery, PP, Three earthworks E. of Callow Hill Roman Villa, (1995)
SM 21820, Jeffery, PP, Ditchley Park Roman Villa, (1994)
SMR numbered Callow Hill 1-3, Crawford, OGS., Air View of the Ditches Surrounding Callow Hill, (1920)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series Source Date: 1970 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: SP 41 NW
Various SMR entries, C.A.O., North Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch, (1980)

End of official listing