Newport Roman Villa


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015621

Date first listed: 14-Apr-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Newport Roman Villa
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Newport

National Grid Reference: SZ 50122 88551


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.

Excavations conducted at Newport Villa in the 1920s provided details of its layout and development between at least the third and fourth millennia AD, while evidence was also found suggesting earlier prehistoric use of the site. Recent part excavations have demonstrated that archaeological remains still survive. The Newport villa, which acts as the nucleus for finds of other Romano-British material in the vicinity, is one of seven to have been identified on the island, and thus is integral to an understanding of the Romano-British period on the Isle of Wight.


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


The monument includes a Roman villa situated on the east-facing slope of a gentle rise above the west bank of the River Medina. The villa, which is aligned north east-south west and has an entrance on its south side, includes two wings with a corridor joining them. The villa is much restored, but shows the original arrangement of a bath-house and furnace in the south west wing with further rooms to the north east, one of which incorporated a hypocaust. These features have been revealed and their extent recorded by part excavation. The principal rooms are covered by a building also housing a collection of finds. The villa is of winged-corridor type, a single storey building with a corridor or verandah at the front between two projecting wings. From the evidence of excavation, it was thought to be c.30m long and c.12m wide. The walls were originally of limestone, chalk rubble and flint nodules within a matrix of lime mortar, but for special features such as cornerstones, door jambs and roofing slabs, Bembridge Limestone was used. The external walling has been reconstructed and raised to c.0.5m with building debris. Quantities of brightly painted wall plaster were found by the excavators of the villa. The south west wing was dedicated to a bath building. This includes a cold plunge bath or `Frigidarium' and warm room or `Tepidarium', the central warm room or `Sudatorium', and the hot bath or `Caldarium', with an adjoining furnace which served the hypocaust. Two original fragments of mosaic exist in the `Frigidarium', and one in the adjoining `Apodyterium'. From excavation it was found that enough pilae remained to mark their position in the three heated bath rooms, and a reconstruction was attempted. In the room adjacent to the bath suite part of a tessellated floor and a fire place remain in their original positions. In the north east wing the southern room retains the base of steps up to the raised floor of the destroyed hypocaust, and has a stoke hole in its east wall. On the south side of the villa two sections of external wall still remain buried. In the late 3rd century the hypocaust arch of the bath range was blocked up, presumably so that the baths could serve an alternative function. One of the rooms appears to have been used as the principle apartment, and a fireplace constructered in it. During the latter years of the villa's life the floors of the eastern rooms were taken up, and one of these rooms used as a blacksmith's shop. In the corner of one of the rooms the skull of a woman was found, and in an adjacent room a pair of bronze bracelets. The presence of a villa was first indicated in 1926, when Roman tiles were found in an area being developed for housing. Mr A Sherwin, the Honorary Curator of Carisbrooke Castle Museum was called to examine them, and following the discovery of the tiles a portion of mosaic was uncovered. The site was subsequently excavated in 1926 by P G Stone who revealed its plan and dated the villa to c.200 AD. Under the villa the excavators discovered a ditch dated by pottery to the 1st century AD., and a circular depression in the corner of one of the rooms suggesting the presence of a grain storage pit or well. A temporary structure was then erected over the site. Excavations in 1981 and 1982, during the erection of the site museum, revealed further evidence of activity dating from the late 1st century AD to the 2nd century AD which included the post holes of a building and salt making vessels. The 1981 excavation provided new pottery evidence that the villa was not built until the late 3rd century AD. In October 1991 an excavation was carried out by the Isle of Wight County Council in order to determine the cause of excessive humidity within the building which covered the monument and to determine the monument's surviving stratigraphy. It was determined during the excavation that although much of the stratigraphy within the villa was destroyed during the 1926 excavation, stratification abutting the outside of the villa walls does survive at least in some places along its length. Also during the 1991 excavation, an earlier prehistoric feature resting on the natural subsoil was located and excavated. This feature contained flecks of charcoal and fired clay. Forty pieces of flint debitage were also recovered. Other associated finds have come from the vicinity of the villa. Excavation for a sewer trench, 37m to the south of the villa, revealed part of a precinct wall showing that the villa faced south onto a courtyard; near the junction of Avondale Road and Medina Avenue, portions of a hypocaust were found in 1933, which possibly indicate a second bath house of the villa. The modern structure which covers and protects the monument, electrical fittings, display cases, modern panels and other fixtures and fittings, are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is included. The drying oven displayed in front of the exhibition building is from a site at Newchurch and is therefore not included in the scheduling.

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: 22064

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Tomalin, D J, Newport Roman Villa Excavation, (1975), 15
Tomalin, D J, Roman Wight: A Guide Catalogue, (1987), 16-17
Tomalin, D J, Newport Roman Villa Excavation, (1975), 24
Tomalin, D J, Newport Roman Villa Excavation, (1975), 18-19
Tomalin, D J, Newport Roman Villa Excavation, (1975), 24-25
Tomalin, D J, Newport Roman Villa Excavation, (1975), 11
Tomalin, D J, Newport Roman Villa Excavation, (1975), 15
Tomalin, D J, Newport Roman Villa Excavation, (1975), 2
Tomalin, D J, Roman Wight: A Guide Catalogue, (1987), 16-17
Tomalin, D J, Roman Wight: A Guide Catalogue, (1987), 16
Tomalin, D J, Roman Wight: A Guide Catalogue, (1987), 15
Tomalin, D J, Roman Wight: A Guide Catalogue, (1987), 14-15
Basford, F., Newport Roman Villa Excavation - 1991, (1992)
Basford, F., Newport Roman Villa Excavation - 1991, (1992)
Basford, F., Newport Roman Villa Excavation - 1991, (1992)
Basford, F., Newport Roman Villa Excavation - 1991, (1992)
Basford, F., Newport Roman Villa Excavation - 1991, (1992)
Basford, F., Newport Roman Villa Excavation - 1991, (1992)
Basford, F., Newport Roman Villa Excavation - 1991, (1992)
Basford, F., Newport Roman Villa Excavation - 1991, (1992)
inf OS F.I. 1967, Basford, V., Isle of Wight SMR, (1981)
Sherwin G. A., Archaeological Survey of the Isle of Wight: Roman Volume, 1936, Unpublished mss Soc of Ants Library
SMR Nos 1, 2, 5, 14, 15, 16, Tomalin, D. J., Isle of Wight County Council,
SMR Nos 18, 41, Tomalin, D J, Isle of Wight County Council,

End of official listing