Romano-British villa complex 330m north west of Queen Court Farm
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SU 03870 79726
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
Geophysical survey at Tockenham as well as partial excavation and fieldwalking has shown that the subsurface remains represent a good example of a Roman villa providing an important insight into the social structure and economy of the area during the late Roman Period.
The monument includes a Romano-British villa complex situated on low lying
Upper Calcerous grit north of the village of Tockenham, 2km north west of the
chalk scarp of the Marlborough Downs.
Geophysical survey of the site has revealed the walls, rooms and corridors of
a building interpreted as a multi phase Romano-British farmyard villa and
associated structures. To the north east of the surveyed area, a well defined
domestic range includes a large, rectangular apsidal ended room interpreted as
a dining room. To the south east of this, a series of smaller rooms are
arranged around a courtyard with an elaborate octagonal entrance structure.
The range is rectangular, approximately 55m long and up to 25m wide orientated
north west to south east and forms the north east side of a large rectangular
enclosed area interpreted as an enclosed farmyard. To the west of the villa
complex further linear features are interpreted as field boundaries or garden
features associated with the building. There are several large pits and the
probable traces of some outbuildings.
Partial excavation by the Time Team television programme in 1994 has revealed
that the boundary to the south east consists of a ditch 4m wide and 1.1m deep.
A trench across the octagonal entrance revealed robbed wall trenches and a
mortared surface as well as a large quantity of material including tesserae,
pottery, window glass fragments and roofing tile. A further trench across a
linear feature forming the western edge of the enclosed area revealed a
shallow ditch 0.8m wide and 0.5m deep as well as indications of early
To the north of the complex, a linear earthwork running south west to north
east is overlain by traces of medieval agriculture in the form of ridge and
furrow and is interpreted as a field boundary contemporary with the villa.
Fieldwalking in the area has shown that a dense scatter of Roman pottery was
concentrated on the east side of the villa complex with an even distribution
of post medieval pottery and prehistoric worked flint. The Roman pottery dates
largely from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD providing a likely date for
occupation of the complex.
A stone figure of a household god set into the wall of Tockenham church and a
stone carved water spout in the form of a fish uncovered close to the site are
thought to have been associated with the villa.
The linear features recorded by geophysical survey to the west of the villa
complex are not thought to be directly associated with it and are not included
in the scheduling.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Harding, P A, Lewis, C, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Archaeological Investigations at Tockenham 1994, , Vol. 90, (1997), 26-41
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