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


Ordnance survey map of Roman villa 500m south east of Hill House Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Box

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)

End of official listing