Roman villa 500m south east of Hill House Farm
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1019189
Date first listed: 22-Jul-1966
Date of most recent amendment: 11-Apr-2000
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 82308 68525
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 found throughout lowland Britain and between 400 and 1000
examples have been recorded in England. Of these less than 10 are examples of
`major' villas. These were the largest, most substantial and opulent type of
villa which were built and used by a small but extremely wealthy section of
Romano-British society. 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. All major villas will be identified as nationally important.
The remains of the Roman villa at Box survive as a series of buried deposits and standing walls. Several areas of the villa have remained undisturbed since their abandonment and the survival of archaeological deposits relating to its occupation and use is likely to be good. These deposits will contain important information about the date, layout and economy of the villa and will provide an opportunity to understand the mechanisms behind its development, decline and eventual abandonment. The mosaic floors surviving within the core of the villa complex represent one of the most extensive groups yet identified within any building of the period in England.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the remains of a major Roman villa at Box which survive
as a series of buried deposits and a standing wall, situated on an east to
west terrace on the south side of a valley overlooking Box Brook.
Two partial excavations in 1902-1903 and 1967-1968 and a series of smaller archaeological evaluations revealed three sides of a courtyard type villa showing evidence of occupation between the second and fourth centuries AD and with at least six phases of building. When initially constructed, the villa comprised a central wing running for 45m on an ENE to WSW axis, with further wings at either end running SSE for at least 30m and probably extending much further. The walls were constructed of stone, up to 1m in width and the building incorporated external corridors, mosaic floors, glazed windows and a tiled roof. Given the manner in which the valley side drops away to the north, the outer corridor to the central wing is likely to have been of two storeys, with the basement acting as a service passage, whilst the insubstantial foundations on the eastern wing suggest that on this side the outer passage was colonnaded. Although there is evidence for a hypocaust underfloor heating system, this appears to have been added in a later phase. There were several episodes of demolition and rebuilding, the last of which took place in the later third or early fourth century AD when the eastern wing was substantially extended and a large apsidal room constructed on the north eastern corner. The addition of new drainage features suggest that a bath house was also in use. In its latter phases the villa represented a large and impressive range of structures covering an area of at least 170m by 100m. An imported marble wall tile and 20 mosaic floors dating from the second to fourth centuries AD identified within the main complex demonstrate the high status of the villa throughout its use.
A series of wall foundations, a drain and a boundary ditch towards the western end of Church Lane and within the grounds of `The Wilderness' and `Box House' relate directly to the main villa building and suggest that either a further wing, or ancillary structures associated with an outer courtyard were located on the western side of the complex.
Further deposits contemporary with and perhaps part of the villa are believed to survive beyond the boundaries of the monument, especially to the south and south east, but have not been included within the scheduling because of uncertainties about their full extent and nature.
All fences, walls, modern services, standing buildings including `Box House Cottage', `Spring Grove', `The Rectory' and `The Wilderness', which are all Listed Buildings Grade II, garden fittings, the swimming pool and the surfaces of all paths, areas of hardstanding 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: 30299
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Beaton, M, An Archaeological Evaluation of Grounds Adjacent to Box House, (1995)
Holyoak, V, Roman remains in the vicinity of Box House, (1999)
Matthews, T, Desk Based Assessment and Suggested Revised CA of Box Villa, (1997)
Matthews, T, Desk Based Assessment and Suggested Revised CA of Box Villa, (1997), 17
Matthews, T, Desk Based Assessment and Suggested Revised CA of Box Villa, (1997), 19
Brakspear, H, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in The Roman Villa at Box, , Vol. XXXIII, (1904), 236-9
Hurst, H R, Dartnall, D L, Fisher, C, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Excavations at Box Roman Villa, 1967-8, , Vol. 81, (1987), 19-51
Carless, C., Pers comm between Carless and Canham, (1996)
Report No. 36922.b (W 653), Box Roman Villa, Wiltshire 833: Archaeological Evaluation, (1994)
Wiltshire Rescue Archaeology Project (WRAP), Excavation Report (full title not known), (1989)
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