Romano-British villa 120m east of Abinger Hall Stables
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1019640
Date first listed: 09-Feb-2001
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Mole Valley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TQ 10657 47455
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
Despite some subsequent disturbance, the Romano-British villa 120m east of Abinger Hall Stables survives well. Partial excavation has demonstrated that the villa contains important archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to its use and development over some 300 years.
The monument includes a minor Romano-British villa situated on a gentle, south
facing slope above the former floodplain of the Tillingbourne stream, about
5km west of Dorking.
The monument represents the domestic focus of the villa estate and survives
mainly in the form of buried masonry foundations. The villa was first
investigated in 1877, and further investigations, including partial excavation
and geophysical survey, took place during the late 20th century. Analysis of
the pottery recovered during the excavations indicates that the villa was
occupied from the late first or early second century AD. The complex underwent
at least one phase of major redevelopment before being finally abandoned
in the early fifth century AD.
The structures examined during the archaeological investigations include the
remains of a series of villa buildings, constructed around the northern and
western sides of a courtyard, enclosed by a boundary wall.
The most substantial building identified so far represents the northern range
of the complex and comprises a rectangular dwelling house, aligned south east
to north west, measuring at least 35m in length and 11m wide, and constructed
of mortared ashlar masonry. Excavations indicate that the house was built
against the inner face of the courtyard wall, and was flanked to the south by
a courtyard veranda and a small extension to the north. The principal
structure is divided into at least eight well-appointed rooms, with
tessellated floors and walls decorated with painted plaster. At least some of
the rooms were heated by a hypocaust, or underground heating system, and the
triclinium, or dining room, located at the centre of the house, was
embellished with a mosaic floor. The mosaic has been dated stylistically to
the fourth century AD and comprises eight geometric, coloured panels of
stylised vine leaves and flowers, arranged around a ninth, central panel
displaying a cantharus, or two handled drinking cup. Each panel is bordered by
guilloche which also surrounds the complete decorative scheme. Access to the
veranda, and courtyard beyond, is through a wide doorway in the southern wall
of the triclinium and by way of a smaller door in the adjacent room to the
A further, possibly earlier range of buildings, partly disturbed by subsequent
gardening activities, was constructed against the outer face of the western
courtyard wall and is interpreted as part of the working area of the villa
The villa is bound to the north and east by an enclosure ditch, and by a
terrace to the west, although further remains may survive beyond these points.
The ground to the south and east of the courtyard has been partly disturbed by
later activities, including the levelling of an area in the early 20th century
for use as a tennis court, but traces of additional, as yet unlocated villa
buildings, such as a bath house and other ancillary structures, can be
expected to survive in this area.
All modern fences, walls and garden structures are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath all of 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: 34292
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Linford, N, Cocks Farm Roman villa: Report on Geophysical Survey, (1995)
Lyne, M, The Pottery from Excavations at Cocks Farm Roman villa, 1995-97, (2000)
McCann, W A, Mackie, P C, Cocks Farm: Ground Penetrating Radar Survey Final Report, (1997)
Dyer, S, An interim report of archaeological excavations: 1995, 1995,
Dyer, S, An interim report of archaeological excavations: 1996, 1996,
Dyer, S, An interim report of archaeological excavations: 1997, 1997,
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