Roman villa and earlier settlement remains 1120m east of Harnhill Manor


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021448

Date first listed: 18-Feb-2011


Ordnance survey map of Roman villa and earlier settlement remains 1120m east of Harnhill Manor
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Dec-2018 at 19:52:12.


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

County: Gloucestershire

District: Cotswold (District Authority)

Parish: Driffield

National Grid Reference: SP 08065 00534


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.

Despite ploughing, the Roman villa and earlier settlement remains 1120m east of Harnhill Manor survive well, and the villa itself is likely to contain some surviving mosaic, suggested by the discovery of some scattered tesserae at ground level. Aerial photography and partial excavation have identified the extent of this important settlement, which has evidence of progressive occupation from Iron Age and Roman farmstead enclosures to the construction of a substantial villa with associated temple. The location of the site close to Cirencester, one of the largest towns in Roman Britain, and the high volume of Roman remains in the district serve to enhance the importance of the settlemnt sites at Harnhill.


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


The monument includes a Romano-British villa and earlier settlements situated on a gentle south facing slope overlooking the valley of the Ampney Brook. The villa's presence was suggested by scattered remains at surface level, and was confirmed by aerial photography and partial excavation in 1982. The excavation revealed the remains of two rooms, one with the lower pilae of a hypocaust and the other with a concrete floor and painted wall plaster. The main villa building appears to be orientated roughly east to west and measures approximately 55m long by 20m wide. The building survives as a spread mound standing up to about 0.5m high covered by substantial quantities of red pantile roof tiles and limestone blocks. There are at least four small circular features to the west of the main villa. To the east and south of the main villa building are at least two outbuildings; the one to the south measures approximately 10m square, and the one to the east is approximately 50m long by 5m wide. Fifty metres south of the main villa site is a small square building cropmark identified from aerial photography. A dense scatter of tiles confirms that it had a tiled roof and this combined with its shape and position suggests that it is very likely to represent the site of a Roman-Celtic temple, with the elevations roughly facing compass points. In addition to the remains of the villa and its associated features, there appear to be several separate sites of earlier settlement. Immediately south of the temple site is a large, double ditched rectilinear enclosure measuring approximately 40m square. Approximately 180m west of the main villa site is the location of a second double ditched rectilinear enclosure of roughly 40m by 40m, and immediately east of this is a single ditched rectilinear enclosure of 40m by 30m. Between these enclosures and the main villa site there is evidence of various earthwork remains including probable pits and Roman field systems. The discovery of water rounded cooking stones and rubbing stones together with their plan-form suggests that these cropmarks represent the remains of Iron Age enclosed farmsteads. Modern fencing along field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground below is included.

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: 36058

Legacy System: RSM


Gloucestershire Sites and Monuments Record Area 2024,
Gloucestershire Sites and Monuments Record Area 2024,

End of official listing