Lammas Field Roman villa, 680m north east of Western Bury
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1015489
Date first listed: 20-Mar-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: North Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TL 27280 30782
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
Although the Roman villa at Lammas Field has been degraded by ploughing, substantial archaeological deposits and features, including foundations, surfaces, and other structural remains will survive beneath the present ground surface, together with occupation material such as pottery, metal objects and coins. These will provide further valuable information relating to the dating and development of the settlement from the late Iron Age to the end of the villa's occupation during the last quarter of the fourth century AD. These same deposits, together with environmental evidence preserved within the various features of the monument, will illustrate the diet, status and lifestyles of the occupants and the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set. The monument's location some 250m south east of the road between the Roman settlements at Baldock and Braughing, and some 1.5km south east of the Romano-British settlement at Kingswoodbury is particularly significant for the study of the distributions and interrelationships of Roman sites in North Hertfordshire.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the buried remains of a Roman villa situated on a south
east facing slope in Lammas Field, above the upper valley of the River Beane
and 680m north east of Weston Bury.
Although the monument cannot be seen on the ground, its location has been
identified from a closely plotted concentration of building and occupation
materials recovered from field walking. These include floor and roof tiles,
tesserae and pottery. In addition, the large number of coins found in the
area, when considered with the sequence of pottery fabrics and styles, have
provided a date range for the development of the site from its earliest phases
of occupation in the late pre-Roman Iron Age to its abandonment in the second
half of the fourth century AD. The results of the fieldwalking programme
suggest that a late Iron Age settlement on the site gradually evolved from the
first century AD, undergoing considerable expansion and alteration, probably
from the early years of the second century. The nature of the pre-Roman and
first century settlement is not known but is clearly evidenced by the dense
scatters of pottery concentrated within the area of the later structure. The
villa building itself is thought to have been constructed from mortared flint.
The walls may have been low sills intended to support a single-storey timber
framed house with a tiled roof and at least one tessellated floor in a central
range of rooms. The plots of finds from field walking suggest that this range
is orientated north east to south west and measures approximately 60m in
length by about 15m wide, with wings attached to the north western and south
western corners. Concentrations of pottery in association with tesserae may
indicate the location of the dining room, while a further pottery
concentration to the west suggests the possibility of a kitchen in the north
western wing, a fairly unusual arrangement also noted at the Gadebridge Roman
The combination of pottery and coin sequences indicates that the villa
flourished during the second to fourth centuries, and was abandoned no earlier
than c.AD 364-378 (the date of the last coins found on the site). This
coincides with a period of extremely unsettled conditions in Britain, when
rural areas were suffering not only from bands of Gaulish raiders but also
from the depradations of deserters from the Roman armies. The military
response under Valentinian (whose coins have been found on the villa site)
strengthened British coastal and town defences from AD 369, and a short period
of relatively peaceful conditions ensued. However, from AD 378 a series of
rebellions and usurpations resulted in instability and decline, and it is
thought that uncertain economic conditions and general insecurity may have
caused the abandonment of the Lammas Field villa at this time.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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: 27917
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Neal, S, 'Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries' in The Excavation of the Roman Villa in Gadebridge Park 1963-8, , Vol. XXXI, (1974)
Salway, P, 'The Oxford History of England' in Roman Britain, , Vol. 1A, (1981), 374-409
plans, maps, scatter diagrams, Went, D A, Fieldwalking Archive, (1990)
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