Romano-British villa 250m south of Park Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020860

Date first listed: 07-Jul-1975

Date of most recent amendment: 28-Jan-2003


Ordnance survey map of Romano-British villa 250m south of Park Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk (District Authority)

Parish: Snettisham

National Grid Reference: TF 68887 33657


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 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 important.

The Romano-British villa 250m south of Park Farm survives well. It is associated with a number of other Romano-British settlement sites recorded in the valley of the River Ingol below it, and is one of six villa sites to either side of the line of the Icknield Way in north west Norfolk where the survival of buried remains can be demonstrated. It is of particular interest because limited excavation in 1931 and the geophysical survey in 1995 have confirmed that extensive remains of structures and other features associated with iron working survive around the site of the house. The monument will retain archaeological evidence not only for the form of the house, the date of its construction and the manner and duration of its use, but also for the industrial activity which contributed to the wealth of the estate and enabled the occupants to live in this style. Recorded evidence for industry on this scale within Romano-British villa complexes is comparatively rare, and this example will contribute significantly to an understanding of the economic organisation of villa estates and of the wider rural economy of this region of Britain during the Roman period.


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


The monument includes the buried remains of a Romano-British villa and associated features, located above a valley slope on the north east side of the River Ingol and about 300m from the western line of the ancient route known as the Icknield Way. In 1931 a small excavation in the eastern part of the site uncovered wall foundations and yard surfaces associated with hearths and large amounts of iron smithing slag, and in 1972 parts of the structure and collapsed masonry of a substantial house were observed, exposed in the side of a lynchet (a ridge formed as a result of ploughing on a slope) alongside a track which runs north-south between two modern fields. A geophysical survey of the surrounding area in 1995 produced evidence for a complex of intersecting boundary ditches and other structures, with magnetic anomalies indicative of extensive industrial activity.

The lynchet overlying the site of the house forms a bank about 2m high on the western side, and the structural remains exposed in this scarp in 1972 included part of a mosaic floor of the kind often found in higher status dwellings in Roman Britain. To the west and south west of this there is a fairly level platform about 0.5ha in extent, and on this platform the geophysical survey showed evidence for ditches defining what was probably a small yard adjoining the house, with other features to the west of it which include a possible metal working hearth. The boundary of the platform above the slope of the valley appears on the plot of the survey as an anomaly which could be a lynchet or a boundary ditch contemporary with the villa. To the south of it is a linear feature interpreted as a former trackway running west-east and forking at the eastern end, and a broad, meandering feature which runs diagonally north westwards across the site from a point near the southern end of the house site towards a track known as Water Lane, is thought to mark the line of an old water course.

The main working area appears to have been on the opposite side of the house, where the excavation in 1931 found evidence for a walled yard associated with metal working and the geophysical survey registered features defining various overlapping rectangular and sub-rectangular enclosures of different dates. Among the most prominent of these features are three parallel ditches, running on a NNW-SSE alignment about 100m to the east of the site of the house. They are spaced 7m to 8m apart and probably mark a defensive boundary relating to the villa. Two parallel ditches a similar distance apart run across them on a roughly perpendicular alignment, from the north end of the house site eastwards, and what may have been a short length of this double ditch, filled with iron working slag, is noted in the earlier excavation records. A number of other rectilinear ditches cross the parallel ditches on slightly different alignments and, although some are unlikely to be contemporary, these may date from other phases of the occupation of the villa.

In the northern part of the area surveyed, to the west of the triple ditch and about 50m to the north and north east of the site of the house, an area of magnetic `noise', and a corresponding spread of iron smithing slag recorded on the surface of the field, marked an area of intensive metal working centred on three strong magnetic anomalies characteristic of hearths or furnaces. Crossing this area is a sinuous, linear feature thought to be a trackway. About 100m to the south there were indications of three more hearths or furnaces, associated with a series of rectilinear features defining small enclosures and possible buildings.

Most of the pottery found on the site during the excavation and subsequently is dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, which suggests that this was the main period of occupation.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the surface of a track which runs across the site, inspection chambers for a water pipe, an information board and all modern fences and gates. The ground beneath all these features is, however, 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: 30626

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Linford, P, Park Farm, Snettisham, Norfolk, Report of Geophysical Survey, (1935)
Copy in Norfolk SMR 1514, Sheringham, H C, Plan of portion of Roman villa Park Farm, (1931)
OS 67-069-108, (1967)

End of official listing