Dalton Parlours Roman villa and Iron Age settlement
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SE 40213 44614
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
Dalton Parlours Roman villa is the only known example of its type in West Yorkshire. Despite modern land use and archaeological excavations, remains of the villa survive beneath the plough zone. The diversity of the surviving evidence, including the domestic and agricultural buildings and the trackways and stock enclosures, will provide information about the organisation of the communities who lived at the villa. This, combined with the artefactual evidence, will also provide an insight into the agricultural systems employed, the social interaction with other communities in the vicinity and the overall organisation of the Roman landscape. Dalton Parlours Iron Age settlement is also the only known example of its type in West Yorkshire. The aggregated nature of the enclosures and hut circles is unparalleled in the region. The majority of Iron Age enclosures in West Yorkshire occur singularly. The surviving depth of the enclosure ditches not only indicates the scale of the original settlement but will also ensure the survival of important environmental evidence.
The monument includes the below ground remains of Dalton Parlours Roman villa
and Iron Age settlement. The site lies about 3.2km south of Wetherby on a
fairly level elevation overlooking the Vale of York. The site of the Roman
villa includes the principal residential building, two bath blocks, other
domestic buildings, associated outhouses, wells, and a sample of the
associated stock enclosures and trackways. The Iron Age settlement includes a
number of hut circles, a series of ditched or palisaded enclosures and a
sample of the associated field system and trackways.
The Roman villa complex was built over part of the earlier Iron Age settlement
and in its construction respected some of the pre-existing features,
particularly enclosure ditches. Occupation began c.AD 200 and probably ended
soon after AD 370. During this period a sequence of villa buildings were
constructed and used. The principal dwelling of the Roman villa is of a winged
corridor type measuring 30m by 16.5m and is aligned roughly east to west. The
building consists of three rooms, a central oblong and two flanking squares
which had projecting wings. The corridor was on the opposite side to the wings
and provided a covered access to the three main parts of the dwelling. The
eastern rooms were hypocausted (provided with under floor heating). The
western room was square with an apsidal wing or semi-circular bay to the
north. This room had a mosaic floor which dated to the early to mid-fourth
century. The central room had a mortared floor and contained evidence of
painted wall plaster. It is possible the two wings and the corridor were later
additions to the original building.
A separate bath house situated 24m to the south of the main dwelling and laid
out in relation to the west wing would have been used by the occupants of the
villa. To the south east of the main dwelling was an aisled building
comprising a large rectangular room to the west, a smaller square room to the
east and a row of smaller rooms to the south. The smaller rooms to the south
included a hypocaust system, large amounts of painted wall plaster and
tesserae (mosaic tiles), indicating their use as domestic dwellings. The rest
of the building contained a kiln, oven flue, stoke pit and quern stones,
indicating an agricultural function. This building was not part of the
original villa complex but was contemporary with the winged corridor building.
A second free standing bath suite to the south west of the aisled building
would have served its occupants. An adjacent well would have supplied the
A number of other buildings in the villa complex were of agricultural, craft
or other ancillary use. The most significant group comprised small rectangular
structures with sunken floors, all located in the eastern half of the
settlement. Their fittings were predominantly kilns and ovens and such
fittings are generally identified as crop processing facilities for malting or
drying prior to milling. Grinding stones were also found in association with
these buildings, confirming their use in crop processing.
The water supply to the villa is represented by the two wells. Both wells were
located close to bath suites which would obviously require significant
quantities of water. One of the wells was associated with a series of
cisterns and conduits which probably supplied buildings, yards and stock
enclosures by means of pipes and aqueducts.
The evidence of both coins and pottery indicates that the villa was
established at the beginning of the third century and represents a high status
household with military connections. A number of items of military equipment
have been recovered, including Sixth Legion stamped tiles which were found to
have come from York. Other building materials and the craftsmen who built and
furnished the domestic structures were probably from York, or from places
which supplied York. The villa appears to have expanded over time but the
replication of facilities such as houses and bath suites in two separate
courtyards may indicate a joint proprietorship. Alternatively the aisled
building may have been developed for a subordinate family such as a tenant or
farm manager. Grain processing was obviously an important part of the villa
economy but animal bones suggest that cattle were being produced for the
market and that sheep were kept for wool. The customers may well have been the
inhabitants of York. The reason for desertion is difficult to determine, but
it appears there was a period of decline before it was finally deserted.
The Iron Age settlement underlies the Roman villa complex and dates from
c.1000 BC. The site occupies an area sub-rectangular in shape, measuring
approximately 450m by 100m and aligned north-west to south-east.
Approximately one third of the site was excavated between 1976 and 1979. The
site consists of a number of irregular shaped enclosures which were added in a
piecemeal fashion as the settlement expanded. The earliest enclosures were
defined by wooden palisades but these gave way to ditches in later phases of
occupation. The ditches survive up to 3.3m wide and to a depth of 1.6m. Many
of the enclosures contained stone built roundhouses; a total of eight were
revealed during excavation. Not all the roundhouses were in use at the same
time; as with the enclosures, new ones were built as the settlement expanded.
The largest round house measured 17m in diameter and had a central ring of
post holes approximately 11m in diameter with a south facing entrance. This is
in contrast to the others which were between 9m and 11m in diameter with
entrance alignments varying between east to west and south east to north west.
The majority of the smaller roundhouses had two opposed entrances across the
diameter of the building. Steep sided cooking pits have been identified in
three of the enclosures and were found to contain black ashy material. Iron
Age pottery sherds were recovered from two of them. Large oval pits used in
the storage of grain were also found around the edge of some enclosures.
Dalton Parlours is located in what was an important grain growing area of the
Brigantian territory and several fragments of quern stone, used in crop
processing, have been found on the site.
The area of settlement was approached by three contemporary, winding trackways
leading from the north, west and east. The trackways are in association with
large rectangular enclosures, particularly to the north of the settlement.
These were probably used as stock enclosures and the trackways would, in part,
have provided access to the fields, but may also have acted as divisions
between arable and pastoral sections of the agricultural landscape. It is
thought that the Iron Age farmsteads shrank in size or number or were moved
westwards and that the Roman villa was built by the side of an existing
settlement. Some of the Iron Age homesteads may have continued in occupation
until the abandonment of the villa, providing the agricultural and domestic
All modern fences and gates 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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Wrathmell, S, Nicholson, A (eds), Dalton Parlours Iron Age Settlement and Roman Villa, (1990), 1-283
Wrathmell, S, Nicholson, A (eds), Dalton Parlours Iron Age Settlement and Roman Villa, (1990), 1-283
Ebbatson, L, MPP Single Monument Class Description Minor Villas (Rom-Brit), (1988)
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