Castle Dikes defended Roman villa


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017467

Date first listed: 01-Feb-1926

Date of most recent amendment: 08-Dec-1997


Ordnance survey map of Castle Dikes defended Roman villa
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Harrogate (District Authority)

Parish: North Stainley with Sleningford

National Grid Reference: SE 29145 75586


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 partly disturbed by excavations the defended villa complex at Castle Dikes survives well. Significant evidence of the domestic arrangements of the dwelling and the associated buildings within the ramparts will be preserved. The construction of a defensive enclosure around the villa is unusual and provides an insight into conditions in the area during the Roman period.


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


The monument includes the buried remains of a Roman villa and associated buildings. These are located within a rectangular enclosure defined by substantial earthen ramparts. The monument is located in the Vale of Mowbray 8km north of Ripon. The ramparts form three sides of an irregular enclosure measuring 200m by 110m. The fourth (north) side may originally have been naturally protected by marshy ground and the Light Water stream. The north east angle has been disturbed by a modern road. The ramparts consist of a pair of earth and stone built banks separated by a deep ditch. The outer bank is up to 8m wide and stands 1m above the surrounding land whilst the inner bank is up to 3.5m wide and 1.5m high. The ditch is 11m wide and up to 2.9m deep. There are low sections of the banks at the east and south sides which are the remains of entrances into the enclosure. The villa was discovered following partial excavation of the site in the late 19th century. These excavations revealed a dwelling house which showed three periods of construction, a separate bath house lying in the north of the enclosure and a further detached building which included two heated rooms and a mosaic floor lying in the south west corner of the enclosure. Low earthworks extending across the remainder of the interior of the enclosure indicate the buried remains of further buildings. A further range of buildings of uncertain function was uncovered north of the enclosure in 1929 during road widening. The villa was constructed in the early second century AD and the dwelling house was later destroyed. It was subsequently rebuilt and the ramparts constructed to form a defensive enclosure around the core of the complex. This second dwelling house was then destroyed by fire. The house was rebuilt for a second time, although it is unclear whether this final building was destroyed or merely abandoned. All gates and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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: 29528

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
'Antiquity' in Antiquity, , Vol. Vol 33, (1959), 109
'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. VOL 38, (1953), 257-8
Luckis, W C, 'Archaeological Journal' in Archaeological Journal, , Vol. Vol 32, (1875), 134-154
Scott, E, 'Leicester Archaeological Monograph' in A gazeteer of Roman villas in Britain, , Vol. No. 1, (1993)

End of official listing