Romano-British villa and traces of medieval occupation at Pitlands Farm, Up Marden


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015235

Date first listed: 31-Jan-1997


Ordnance survey map of Romano-British villa and traces of medieval occupation at Pitlands Farm, Up Marden
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: West Sussex

District: Chichester (District Authority)

Parish: Compton

National Park: SOUTH DOWNS

National Grid Reference: SU 79676 12403


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 villa at Pitlands Farm has been shown by part excavation to survive comparatively well, despite some subsequent disturbance. The excavations have revealed that it contains important archaeological information relating to the ways in which the villa was developed and the agricultural and economic activities with which it was involved over a period of a least three centuries. The monument forms part of a group of villas clustered around the Chilgrove valley, providing evidence for the intensive agricultural exploitation of this area of West Sussex downland into the Roman period.


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


The monument includes a minor Romano-British villa and traces of later, medieval settlement situated on the south facing slope of a chalk hill which forms part of the Sussex Downs. Surviving mainly in the form of buried masonry foundations, the villa was partly excavated during the 1960s and in 1992-93. The monument represents the domestic focus of the villa estate, and includes the remains of a number of buildings constructed within a roughly rectangular farmyard enclosed by a boundary wall. Some of the villa buildings are visible on aerial photographs, their plans represented by parch marks, or areas of dryer vegetation growing above the buried walls. The most substantial building identified so far is a rectangular, roughly east-west aligned bath suite situated in the south eastern sector of the monument. This was constructed during the late first or early second century AD as a simple building of three rooms, later modified and extended eastwards. A hypocaust, or underfloor heating system, heated the tepidarium and caldarium (the warmer bathing rooms through which the bather progressed), and the rooms were generally well- appointed, with tessellated floors and walls decorated with painted plaster. The eastern end of the building adjoined the south eastern corner of the farmyard wall, and a further, detached building, represented by a foundation trench, was located a few metres to the north east. The south western corner of the bath house is partly overlain by the current farmhouse and its garden. A second, substantial masonry building was discovered by aerial photography and partly excavated in 1992-93. This is a rectangular, roughly north-south aligned aisled building of six rooms situated 65m north west of the bath house. Finds of tesserae, or mosaic squares, and painted wall plaster suggest that the building had a domestic function, and it was found to have been roofed mainly with Horsham stone slates. The analysis of pottery sherds also discovered during the excavation confirmed that the villa continued in use into the fourth century AD. Traces of further Roman buildings have been identified in the northern and eastern sectors of the monument, and further, as yet unlocated villa buildings, including the main domestic range, can be expected to survive in the areas around the known buildings, within the modern farmyard. The excavations also revealed that the Roman remains had been partly damaged by later activity associated with the reuse of the monument during the medieval period. This was represented by a number of middens containing pottery sherds dating from the 10th-14th centuries, and by a lynchet, indicating medieval cultivation, which runs across the hillside towards the northern edge of the monument. Medieval and modern ploughing, and the construction of the current farmhouse and its associated buildings and garden features, has resulted in some disturbance to the earlier remains. Pitlands farmhouse, all outbuildings, barns and garden structures, the swimming pool, the modern surfaces of all tracks, hardstanding, paths and patios and all modern fences and gates are 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: 29241

Legacy System: RSM


Down, A, The Roman Villa at Pitlands Farm, Up Marden, Compton, W Sussex, 1993, leaflet

End of official listing