Romano-British villa at Chelsham 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.
- Tandridge (District Authority)
- Chelsham and Farleigh
- National Grid Reference:
- TQ 38810 58535
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
The Romano-British villa at Chelsham Court Farm has been shown by partial excavation to survive comparatively well, despite some subsequent disturbance. The excavations revealed that it contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to its development and use over a period of some 300 years.
The monument includes the recorded extent of a minor Romano-British villa
situated on gently sloping ground at the northern foot of the North Downs.
Surviving mainly in the form of buried foundations, the villa complex
represents the domestic focus of the villa estate, and includes the remains of
at least two buildings, north of Chelsham Court Farm, around 1km west of the
Roman London to Lewes road. The buildings were first recorded by aerial
photography in 1976, their plans represented by crop marks, or areas marked by
a difference in crop development above the buried walls, and were partly
excavated during 1997.
The most substantial building identified so far lies to the south east and is
a rectangular, north west-south east aligned dwelling house measuring around
25m by 15m, with tesselated floors and wall footings up to around 1.1m wide,
constructed of mortared flint. The house is divided into at least five rooms,
linked by a corridor along their north eastern side which is flanked by two
projecting wings. A flint cobbled walkway, around 1.7m wide, skirts the
building on its south eastern side.
A second, smaller masonry building, situated around 40m north of the main
building, was also investigated. This is a rectangular, south west-north east
aligned bath suite, comprising a block of at least three main rooms, measuring
around 10m by 5m, with opus signinum (hard, waterproof cement) floors. Traces
of its north western wall extend for a further 12m to the south west,
indicating the original extent of the building. The tepidarium and caldarium
(the warmer bathing rooms through which the bather progressed) were heated by
a hypocaust, or underfloor heating system, which was fed from a furnace
located outside the north eastern wall of the bath suite. Pits, recorded by
geophysical survey in 1997 were located between the two buildings immediately
east of the bath suite. Artefacts, brought to the surface by modern ploughing,
have also been found in the area of the monument. Analysis of the pottery
fragments and coins discovered during the excavation, indicates that the villa
complex was in use during the second to the fourth centuries AD.
The monument has been partly disturbed by ploughing. Traces of further, as yet
unlocated, Roman buildings, as well as other components of the villa complex,
including enclosure features and trackways, can be expected to survive beyond
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
Davies, EM, An Assessment of a Romano British Villa Site at Chelsham, Surrey, (1997)
Hampton, J N, 'Surrey Archaeological Collections' in Chelsham, A New Roman Villa, , Vol. 83, (1996), 244
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