Islip Roman villa, 300m east of Hillside Farm


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


Ordnance survey map of Islip Roman villa, 300m east of Hillside Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cherwell (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 53291 13436

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 found throughout lowland Britain and between 400 and 1000 examples have been recorded in England. Of these less than 10 are examples of `major' villas. These were the largest, most substantial and opulent type of villa which were built and used by a small but extremely wealthy section of Romano-British society. 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. All major villas will be identified as nationally important.

The Islip Roman villa is unusual in having had two enclosures rather than one. Despite having been reduced by cultivation over the years, it is known from part excavation and aerial photographs to include extensive remains including a number of buildings, surfaces and both enclosure boundaries which will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction and use and the landscape in which it was built.


The monument includes a Roman villa of winged corridor type situated within its own enclosure, beyond which lies a larger outer enclosure. The villa faces south on a hillslope situated south east of the confluence of the Rivers Ray and Cherwell. It lies 900m north west of the Woodeaton Romano-Celtic temple. Part excation in 1962 provided dating evidence for the villa, covering the period from the late 1st century to the early 2nd century AD. Field walking has provided much pottery of later 3rd and 4th century date from the inner enclosure. The villa is aligned roughly east-west and occupies the north end of its surrounding enclosure. Aerial photographs show that it measures 44m along its main axis and has wings which project 14.5m to the south. There were 20 rooms in the building which range in size from 3m by 2.3m to 11.5m by 5.3m. The largest room lies in the west corner but it is possible that this was actually two rooms cut by a partition wall which was later removed. At the front (south) of the villa is a 3m wide verandah or portico. At the rear of the villa is an unusual extension. This protrudes through the inner enclosure and gives direct access to the interior of the outer enclosure. It measures 8.4m north-south and 5.3m wide. It takes the form of a single room which is separated from the villa by a 2.3m wide corridor. Further extensions into the outer enclosure at this point suggest that the structure included further rooms which are not clearly understood from the aerial photographs alone. The inner enclosure is aligned almost north-south and measures 80m from east- west and about 150m north-south. It has a stone boundary wall, only the buried foundations of which now survive. These are about 2.5m thick at the widest point, and form the base of what would have been a very substantial wall. It is likely that a gateway would have been present on the south side. Within the enclosure, at least two circular structures with diameters of 9m amd 18m lie roughly south of the villa wings. These may have been buildings or perhaps even pond features within an extensive garden. Evidence of further outbuildings is also visible. The outer enclosure surrounds the inner one but is offset to the east. It measures about 210m from east-west and 260m from north-south. Within it, south of the entrance to the inner enclosure and aparently flanking it, are a pair of roughly circular features, similar to those within the inner enclosure but measuring up to 30m in diameter. A further small circular feature, about 10m in diameter, lies just inside the entrance. The fact that the boundary cuts in to meet that of the inner enclosure at the south west suggests that a road already existed on the line now followed by the B 4027. The east side of the enclosure is formed by a track which is ditched on both sides and has access to the enclosure at its extreme north and south ends. This track continues north of the complex and forms part of a field system associated with the villa, parts of which can be seen on some aerial photographs. These elements beyond the outer villa enclosure are not included in the scheduling. Excluded from the scheduling are all post and wire fences across the monument, 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Cheetham, CJ, Islip Roman Villa Site, (1995)
Cheetham, CJ, Islip Roman Villa Site, (1995)
Wilson, D R, 'Journal Of Roman Studies' in Roman Britain In 1962, , Vol. LIII, (1963), 125
List of photos appended to hard copy, R.C.H.M.(E), National Monuments Record Centre - Air Photo Library, (1995)
List of photos appended to hard copy, R.C.H.M.(E), National Monuments Record Centre - Air Photo Library, (1995)
SP 51 SW PRN 1330, C.A.O., Villa, (1978)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: SP 51 SW


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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