Romano-British villa 400m west of White House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020861

Date first listed: 28-Jan-2003


Ordnance survey map of Romano-British villa 400m west of White House
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1020861 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 17-Dec-2018 at 19:17:23.


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: Fring

National Grid Reference: TF 73568 34236


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.

Evidence for Romano-British settlement along the line of Peddar's Way in north west Norfolk is sparse, and the enclosure identified as a villa 400m west of White House, together with another probable villa about 550m to the north west appears to be an outlier of a much more densely inhabited area around 5km to the west, between Heacham and Snettisham, and extending southward along the line of the ancient track known as the Icknield Way. It is one of only seven villa sites in this part of the county where the survival of buried remains can been demonstrated, and is unique among these in that it is defined by a substantial ditched enclosure and exhibits some unusual features. The ditches and buildings revealed by crop marks, with associated buried deposits, will retain archaeological evidence for the date of the construction of the villa, the duration of its use and the activities of its occupants, together with further information on the internal organisation of the compound and the character of the buildings within it. The monument as a whole will contribute to a better understanding of the settlement and rural economy of the area during the Roman period.

Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials, and occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries. Often superficially similar in form, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. They are a major archaeological element in the modern landscape, and provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. The ring ditches adjacent to the Romano-British enclosure, identified as the remains of round barrows, relate to a number of surviving barrow groups in north west Norfolk, the closest being at Bircham, about 5km to the south east, and although the original mounds have been levelled, they are of particular interest for the study of prehistoric settlement in the region.


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


The monument includes the buried remains of a large rectangular enclosure containing buildings, identified as a Romano-British villa, and up to four adjacent ring ditches which probably mark the site of prehistoric round barrows. The enclosure is sited above an east facing slope on the north east side of the Roman road known as Peddar's Way, and was discovered in 1974, when crop marks (lines of differential crop growth above buried walls and ditches) were first observed and recorded by aerial photography. An area of associated settlement to the north and east of the enclosure is indicated by numerous recorded finds of Roman pottery, coins and metal work from the ploughsoil of the same field.

The enclosure revealed by crop marks is very regular in plan with internal dimensions of around 165m NNE-SSW by 158m. Around the north western and north eastern sides it is defined by two parallel ditches spaced about 8m apart. The outer ditch continues around the eastern corner and then extends outward to form an enclosure about 45m wide around a gap in the inner ditch where there was probably an entrance gate, but there is no evidence that it continues south of the entrance or around the south western side, where the crop marks show only the continuation of the inner ditch. The area within the inner ditch is subdivided across the entire width by two internal ditches, aligned parallel to the north eastern and south western boundaries, to create a central enclosure measuring about 110m NNE-SSW, with two much narrower enclosures at either end.

The central enclosure contains the remains of at least three buildings whose buried foundations have produced clear crop marks. Two are rectangular in plan, one located to the south west of centre, and the other roughly centrally at the north eastern end; the third is a hexagonal structure situated in the northern corner. The first of the rectangular buildings measures approximately 25m NNE-SSW by 10m, with a large central hall and a smaller room at either end. The second is aligned WNW-ESE and of similar length, though possibly slightly narrower in width, with a small room at the south eastern end. Both resemble the simplest type of house found on Roman villa sites. The hexagonal structure measures about 8m across and, on the evidence of similar buildings found on Roman sites elsewhere, was probably a shrine or small temple. Less distinct evidence for rectangular buildings in the enclosures at the north eastern and south western ends has also been noted in some aerial photographs.

Fragments of roof tile and brick in the ploughsoil above the site provide some evidence for the structure of the buildings, and numerous associated finds of pottery, coins and metal work are believed to relate to the occupation of the enclosure and associated activities. The dates of the pottery and coins range from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD.

The four ring ditches known from crop marks are located outside the Roman enclosure, two to the north and two to the south east. Of the two on the north side, one is almost contiguous with the outer ditch of the enclosure, and the other is about 25m to the north of the first. Both enclose circular areas about 25m in diameter. A third and fourth ring ditch have been recorded alongside the ditch on the south east side of the enclosure, situated between the entrance and the south eastern corner. They measure about 23m and 12m in diameter respectively. In size these features resemble the ditches which commonly encircle Bronze Age barrow mounds and from which the material to build the mounds was quarried, and although nothing of the barrow mounds remains visible, they can be seen to relate to a number of surviving barrows within a radius of 7km to the south and south east.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 10 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: 30627

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Johnson, D, Roman Villas, (1994), 33
Edwards, D, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in The Air Photographs Collection of the Norfolk Archaeology Unit, (1977), 234
Edwards, D, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in The Air Photographs Collection of the Norfolk Archaeology Unit, (1977), 234
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology TF7334/ABZ, (1989)
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology TF7334/Y, (1976)
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology TF 7334/ABZ, (1989)

End of official listing