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Gadebridge Roman villa

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Gadebridge Roman villa

List entry Number: 1015577

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hertfordshire

District: Dacorum

District Type: District Authority

Parish:

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 07-Jan-1964

Date of most recent amendment: 21-Feb-1997

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 27881

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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.

Although the remains of the substantial Gadebridge villa are no longer visible, they are preserved beneath the present ground surface. Excavations have revealed a sequence of construction phases for the villa complex including the elaborate bath suite which incorporates an exceptional example of a swimming pool whose size is at present unparalleled in this context. Since the excavations were planned with the intention of preservation, no surfaces or structures from the later phases were removed unnecessarily. The monument therefore contains sealed layers of archaeological deposits which relate to the earlier periods of occupation. These will provide further valuable dating evidence together with information concerning the villa's economy and the diet, status and lifestyle of its occupants.

The villa is one of a number of Roman sites in the area, including Boxmoor villa, High Street Green Roman barrow and the temple complex at Wood Lane End, all of which are thought to have been interlinked by a system of roads and trackways. Comparative studies of these sites will contribute significantly to an understanding of the settlement patterns and economic structures of the Roman period.

Gadebridge villa is a well documented example of this monument class and is frequently cited in works dealing with Roman Britain.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the buried remains of a substantial Roman villa complex situated in the valley of the River Gade to the immediate north west of the junction of Galley Hill and the A4146 Hemel Hempstead to Leighton Buzzard road.

The site was discovered in 1962 during the construction of the A4146, and parts of the monument were subsequently excavated over a period of six years. Excavation revealed that the earliest occupation on the site dated to around AD 75. Later buildings had obliterated most of the first house, which was thought to be a simple, timber framed structure (located c.50m west of the present road), with a separate small stone-built bath house c.20m to the north east. The bath house initially included two heated rooms and one cold room in a row running north-south, with a furnace at one end, but was modified during this early phase by the addition of hot and cold plunge baths. During this period a roughly rectangular area of farmland measuring approximately 120m by 40m immediately to the south of the villa was delineated by ditches.

Towards the end of the second century AD the main villa building was rebuilt in stone. The principal suite of seven rooms, arranged in an east-west row, had projecting wings at either end, the whole enclosed by a corridor and measuring c.45m long by 25m wide overall. The south eastern wing, terraced into ground sloping down to the river, was of two storeys, the lower floor forming a semi-basement approached from the outer corridor. It is thought that this room may have been used as a workshop or stable. At the same time the bath house was remodelled, and a new wing with a caldarium (hot room) and hot plunge baths was added to the western side. The existing caldarium became a tepidarium or warm room. Finds from the excavation, including five ovens, indicated that, unusually, the kitchen at Gadebridge was located in the west wing rather than in the central range.

By the early third century a large building some 44m long by 15m wide had been attached to the south eastern corner of the east wing. This contained three large rooms, two of which were surrounded by a corridor or verandah. A further, separate building measuring c.24m by 12m was erected to the south west of the west wing and the two new structures joined by a wall to form an enclosed courtyard entered from the west, overlying the former area of farmland. It has been suggested that by the third century the villa had become a large farming establishment and that the new structures provided accommodation for farm workers and animals. The bath house was also the subject of further alterations, chiefly the addition of a large plunge bath built onto the south side.

By the beginning of the fourth century at least one room of the bath house had fallen into a state of severe disrepair. However, from this point on, there were major alterations which may suggest that the occupants of the villa turned from agriculture as a primary source of income. Modifications to the main villa building included the addition of two further wings to the north west and north east corners. The wide foundations of these structures indicate that they could have supported two storeys, forming impressive towers projecting from the northern facade. The ground floor rooms of both these wings were provided with hypocausts (underfloor heating systems), and one (in the west wing) had a mosaic floor. However, partitioning in the main range provided several small workshops one of which contained farrier's tools. There is also evidence for lime quarrying and processing on the site. At the same time, the south western barn was demolished and two smaller buildings put up to the north. This may imply that more limited farming activities were henceforth concentrated on the northern side of the villa. Elaboration of the villa continued into the fourth century with an extension to the north eastern hypocaust. A new room over 20m long was attached to the west wing and provided with a two-furnace heating system. A hypocaust was also inserted into the southern room of the west wing.

The southern room of the bath house was enlarged and, around AD 325, a swimming pool was constructed, adjoining the southern end of the eastern wall. At 21m long by 12m wide, the pool is the largest known example in the context of a villa in England. The pool, now largely buried beneath the Leighton Buzzard road, was entered by five steps, one of which extended around the sides of the pool to provide a bench seat. Although a deposit of coins and jewellery was discovered close to the pool, there are no indications that the site had any ritual significance. Apart from the remains of a small building, interpreted as a mausoleum (since it contained the burial of an adult male), no temple or shrine was discovered on the site.

The villa itself is not unusually large and the provision of elaborate heating systems and baths is thought to suggest either that it had become the centre of a large estate where outlying farmers came to pay dues and make use of the bath house and pool, or that it had ceased to function as a farm and was, instead, providing spa and recreational facilities. It is interesting to note that the villa is situated c.0.25km south of the springs at Piccotts End which, in the 18th and 19th centuries, were a fashionable spa resort.

The sequence of coins recovered from the site ceases abruptly at AD 353 when, except for the two small buildings to the north, the whole of the villa complex was systematically demolished. The excavator of the site suggests that this destruction may have been connected with the reprisals of Constantius against the supporters of the usurper Magnentius. Magnentius was defeated, committing suicide in AD 353, after which Constantius' agent pursued and punished the rebel supporters, confiscating many British properties in Britain in the process. The villa at Gadebridge may have been one of these, and it has been suggested that its lands were incorporated into the estates of the Boxmoor villa about 1km to the south.

After the demolition, occupation continued in the two remaining buildings to the end of the Roman occupation. The land was returned to agriculture, and a series of post hole alignments indicate the erection of large animal pens on the site of the villa buildings. It remained as farmland into the 20th century.

The monument is one of a significant number of Roman sites in the area including the Roman barrow at High Street Green, c.2.2km to the east, Boxmoor villa, c.1km to the south, and the former temple complex at Wood Lane End, some 3.45km to the south west (all of which are the subject of separate schedulings). These are thought to have been connected by an interlinking network of roads and trackways.

All made surfaces are excluded from the scheduling including fences, fenceposts, lamp posts, bollards, street and traffic signs, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

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), 98
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), 64
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), 75
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), 51
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), 68
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), 29
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), 88
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), 96
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), 3
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), 19-20
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), 24-25
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), 93
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), 7
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), 55
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), 14
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), 6
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), 47
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), 94
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), 89-90
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), 6
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), 99
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), 38,98
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), 99-100
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), 98,99
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), 75
Other
discussion with MPPA, Went D A, (1996)
discussion with MPPA, Went, D A, (1996)

National Grid Reference: TL 04974 08630

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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This copy shows the entry on 13-Dec-2017 at 06:57:42.

End of official listing