Romano-British and Iron Age buildings, field system and hollow ways in the southern part of Holt Down Plantation


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020135

Date first listed: 28-Jul-1971

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Dec-2001


Ordnance survey map of Romano-British and Iron Age buildings, field system and hollow ways in the southern part of Holt Down Plantation
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Dec-2018 at 23:49:39.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hampshire

District: East Hampshire (District Authority)

Parish: Buriton

County: Hampshire

District: East Hampshire (District Authority)

Parish: Clanfield

National Park: SOUTH DOWNS

National Grid Reference: SU 72226 17588


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Romano-British farmsteads are small agricultural units comprising groups of up to four circular or rectangular houses along with associated structures which may include wells, storage pits, corn-drying ovens and granary stores. These were sometimes constructed within a yard surrounded by an enclosure, and associated field systems, trackways and cemeteries may be located nearby. Most Romano-British farmsteads in south east England have been discovered by the analysis of aerial photographs. They usually survive in the form of buried features visible as crop and soil marks and very occasionally as low earthworks. Often situated on marginal agricultural land and found throughout the British Isles, they date to the period of Roman occupation (AD 43-450). Although Romano-British farmsteads are generally regarded as low status settlements, with the members of a small kinship group pursuing a mixed farming economy, the buildings within Holt Down Plantation appear to be both more substantial and of a higher quality than those usually encountered within settlements of this type. Socially they may have fallen somewhere between simple agricultural dwellings and villas, since the latter often also incorporated mosaic floors, under-floor heating and were at the centre of small estates, none of which is readily apparent at Holt Down. However, the Roman buildings within Holt Down Plantation are situated within an existing field system, itself a characteristic of farmsteads, which often show a marked continuity with later prehistoric settlements. Romano-British farmsteads occur throughout southern England, but cluster on the chalk downland of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. As the most representative form of rural settlement in the region during the Roman period, all Romano-British farmsteads which have been positively identified and which have significant surviving remains will merit protection. Regular field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another. Individual fields generally fall within the 0.1ha-3.2ha range and can be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The field boundaries can take various forms and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to most systems include entrances and trackways, and the settlements or farmsteads from which people utilised the fields. These are usually situated close to or within the field system. The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. Regular aggregate field systems occur widely and represent a coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time, and can thus provide important information about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries. Those which survive well or which can be positively linked to associated settlements are considered to merit protection. The Romano-British and Iron Age buildings, field system and hollow ways in the southern part of Holt Down Plantation survive well as a series of earthworks and buried deposits. These deposits will contain information about the dating, layout and economy practised within the areas of occupation and the associated field system. Environmental material preserved within the old land surface beneath represents an unusually complete group. Not only do they show evidence of use over a long period of time, with occupation from at least the Iron Age through to the end of the Roman period, but they are a rare survival on the chalk downland which has otherwise been subjected to intensive arable agriculture.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument is situated on the southern slopes of a chalk scarp known as Holt Down and includes the remains of Romano-British and presumed Iron Age structures and an area of field system within which they are situated. Limited excavations carried out on Holt Down in 1923 revealed a number of walls belonging to a Romano-British building or a successive series of buildings on the same site. The walls were constructed of flint and mortar and appeared to define at least four rectangular rooms, all in close proximity, three of which were aligned either east to west or north to south and the fourth north west to south east. Only the most southerly room was excavated in its entirety and proved to be 4m in length and 3.6m in width. Its walls varied between 0.6m and 0.8m in thickness and had painted wall plaster showing a simple geometric design executed in red, brown and yellow on a white background. In contrast to the high quality wall decoration, the internal floor was of trampled clay, whilst debris associated with the destruction of the building suggested that it had once been roofed with sandstone and ceramic tiles. A rubbish pit to the east of the excavated room produced animal bone, oyster shells, sherds of Roman New Forest and Samian ware pottery and a small figurine of Venus. These and a series of coins from the pit, including those of Trajan, Caracalla, Gallienus, Tetricus, Urbs Roma and Constantine, suggest that the buildings were occupied between the first and fourth centuries AD. A sketch plan based on a series of aerial photographs taken in 1926 prior to afforestation also appears to show the lines of further walls in the vicinity of the structures excavated. The most extensive of these defined a series of rooms orientated WNW to ESE and covering an area approximately 50m by 30m. Taken together, the three different orientations of the structures revealed either by excavation or aerial photography suggest that construction was not a single event. Field survey during 1997 confirmed that the Roman buildings were situated within an extensive field system, parts of which were probably contemporay with them or had been modified during the Roman period, but the majority of which seem to be earlier and of Iron Age date. This interpretation of the chronology appears to have been corroborated by the identification of two groups of features situated 200m ENE and 200m ESE respectively of the Roman buildings. The southerly group consisted of three collapsed drystone structures, two of which were built upon a field boundary and abutted on their northern side by a hollow way or trackway, orientated east to west, which appeared to have been edged by a drystone wall. The third structure was situated at the foot of the same field boundary. The northern group of features included an east to west orientated terrace which had been cut at right angles by a short length of hollow way. A circular depression at the southern end of the hollow way was interpreted as a pond whilst a spread of burnt flint was identified within the surrounding area. The precise dating and function of both sets of features is not known, but the presence of Iron Age pottery, burnt flint and small quantities of charcoal within one of the drystone structures suggests that they pre-dated the Roman buildings to the north west and, given their small internal area, possibly fulfilled some industrial or agricultural purpose rather than being used as dwellings. The field boundaries within which the other remains are situated define a series of rectangular enclosures, the long axes of which are orientated along the contours of the slope. In many places the cross-contour boundaries have been buried by the downslope movement of soil brought about by long periods of cultivation resulting in the formation of lynchets. The field system formerly continued to the north and across the valley to the south. Survival in the area to the north, however, appears to be more fragmentary, while the field banks to the south have been levelled by arable cultivation; neither area is therefore included in the scheduling. All sign boards and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 33959

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing