Brading Roman villa
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Sep-2020 at 08:27:17.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SZ 60005 86249
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
Brading Roman villa is a well-preserved example of a high status Roman building which has been shown by excavation, geophysical and aerial photographic survey to contain extensive archaeological and environmental deposits relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. Together the deposits will provide information on the nature of late prehistoric and Roman occupation and agriculture in the area and the gradual development, expansion and eventual decline of the site through to the early medieval period. The villa also has added importance as a well-used public amenity.
The monument includes Brading Roman villa, situated between the lower slopes
of Brading Downs and the floodplain of the River Yar, overlooking the former
coastal inlet at Brading Haven. Excavations between 1881 and 1900 revealed a
winged corridor type villa with evidence of occupation between the second and
fourth centuries AD. The central, western block of the villa contained the
living quarters, and was probably a two storey building which included four
rooms on its ground floor with elaborate and extremely high quality mosaic
floors. Numerous finds such as painted wall plaster and window glass further
indicate the high status of the villa. The central corridor of the block also
contained `T'-shaped corn drying ovens which had apparently been inserted in
the late fourth century after this part of the villa ceased to be used as a
dwelling. The northern wing contained a well chamber, a hypocaust underfloor
heating system and measured 42m in length east to west, and 15m in width. The
southern wing has been heavily disturbed by ploughing, but was originally 46m
in length east to west and 10m in width. A paved yard flanked either side of
the wing and a separate bath house was situated adjacent to its eastern end.
The standing remains of the villa are a Listed Building Grade I.
Aerial photography and geophysical survey carried out in 1994 and 1995 revealed evidence of an extensive series of field boundaries around the villa which are probably contemporary with it. A further contemporary field system on Brading Down is the subject of a separate scheduling. Subsequent archaeological evaluations in 1995 and 1997 discovered evidence of pre-Roman occupation in the form of circular structures of Iron Age date and associated enclosure ditches.
The modern buildings overlying the villa, all fences, interpretation boards, walkways and the modern surfaces of all paths and roads are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all 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:
- Legacy System:
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