Romano-British villa 560m north east of East Creech Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014841

Date first listed: 22-Jul-1964

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Jan-1997


Ordnance survey map of Romano-British villa 560m north east of East Creech Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: Purbeck (District Authority)

Parish: Church Knowle

National Grid Reference: SY 93488 82773


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

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 Romano-British villa 560m north east of East Creech Farm survives comparatively well and is known from part excavation to contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed.


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


The monument includes a Romano-British villa situated upon a low chalk ridge at the northern foot of the Purbeck Hills.

The site of the Roman villa was first identified following ploughing in 1869, when Roman pottery and structural remains were identified. Historical records and the evidence of aerial photography indicate that the complex included two stone founded structures, both situated on a low ridge aligned east-west. The southern building is aligned east-west and has approximate dimensions of c.40m by c.20m. The north eastern building has dimensions of c.20m by c.20m. The two buildings are set at right angles and are likely to have been arranged around a courtyard, occupying the area to the north west of the structures. The site of the villa has been recorded by the Ordnance Survey since 1887, following the identification of Roman coins, pottery and other remains during ploughing operations in 1885. In 1869 a stone column and Roman pottery, shale fragments, mortar and painted wall plaster were unearthed by ploughing. The column, which included a base and capital, had dimensions of 1.2m in height and 0.12m in width. This is likely to have originally formed part of a colonnade or portico associated with one of the Roman buildings.

In 1888, part excavations by L Pike identified a tesserated pavement composed of a red tile border with an interior of white stones. This was contained within a room with dimensions of c.3m square. A second room c.3.5m square was also discovered and was found to contain a similar tesserated pavement. The area has produced building masonry, including heathstone and Purbeck limestone, clay roof and flue tiles, pottery, shale waste, limestone tesserae and wall plaster. The finds suggest an occupation period during the second- fourth centuries AD. The adjacent downland is likely to have been used for the grazing of stock and a pastoral based economy is most probable. The presence of a number of shale amulets, bracelet cores and associated debris indicates that shale working was also an important activity.

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: 28328

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 596
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 596
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 595
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 596
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 596
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 596
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 595
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 596
Date of finds,
Dimensions of column,
Finds from surrounding area,
Finds of 1885,
Finds of surounding area,
Interpretation of colonnade/portico,
Recognition by OS in 1887,
Site recognised by Os in 1887,
Size of stone column,
Tesserated pavement found in 1888,
Tesserated pavement found in 1888,
Two stone structures,
Two structures identified,

End of official listing