Roman villa and bathhouse remains in Lower Woods, 115m north west of Lower Woods Lodge
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1021452
Date first listed: 29-Oct-2010
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: South Gloucestershire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 74475 88179
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
Despite partial robbing and the insertion of drainage channels on the western side of the monument, the Roman villa and bathhouse in Lower Woods survives well. Geophysical survey and excavations have demonstrated the extent and excellent survival of this important settlement. The monument is known to contain at least two mosaics, at least one mosaic with a partial inscription, and is situated within the sphere of influence of Bath and Cirencester, two important towns in Roman Britain. The villa's proximity to Wickwar Roman town further enhances its importance and serves to increase our understanding of the complex character of Romano-British rural settlement.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a Romano-British villa and bathhouse situated at the
top of a gentle north-west facing slope in a clearing known as Stanley
Meadow, within the ancient woodland of Lower Woods. The villa's presence was
suggested by the discovery of pottery during fencing works in 1996 and
confirmed by geophysical survey, test pits and excavation over a small area
between 1997 and 2002. Further fieldwork between 2003 and 2008, including
excavation and a full geophysical survey in 2006 confirmed the character and
form of the monument.
The villa is orientated north-west to south-east, measures 70m long by 60m
wide and includes two ranges of buildings to the south west and north east,
within a large courtyard, suggesting that it was used for animal husbandry.
Midway along the south western length of the courtyard wall is a pair of
short walls extending into the courtyard, which may represent the site of a
gatehouse. Excavations have revealed sections of the lower courses and cobble
foundations of internal and external rubble limestone walls, stone roof
tiles, painted wall plaster and the remains of at least two mosaics,
including one with a damaged inscription reading REG.S. The villa buildings
survive as a spread mound measuring up to 1m high, focused on the east side
of the monument. Artefacts recovered during excavation work include a certain
amount of pottery, quantities of iron nails, terracotta tile, ceramic,
limestone and sandstone tessarae, charcoal, coal, slag and animal bone. An
iron blade, two copper coins and a bronze bracelet and spoon handle were also
found. The ceramic finds and mosaic suggest a date of late 2nd century AD.
The presence of postholes and a hearth cut into a mosaic in the south west
structure, together with metalworking debris suggests that the villa was
reused in the late Romano-British period and may even have continued in use
as a working industrial site into the early post-Roman period.
Excavations in 2008 revealed the remains of a bathhouse, approximately 95m
west of the villa and close to natural springs at the south-west corner of
the site. This small building measures 20m long by 15m wide. A terracotta
tiled floor to a curved bath on the western side, nine free-standing
limestone pilae and some tiled pilae, tufa, roof and flue tiles, painted wall
plaster, corroded iron bars and pottery sherds were uncovered, dating the
structure to the late 2nd century AD. Geophysical evidence indicates that the
area between the villa and bath house contains evidence of broadly
contemporary occupation. At least two substantial north to south orientated
ditches and other anomalies indicate that this part of the monument will
contain information relating to the use of both the villa and bath house.
Modern fencing and ditches along field boundaries are excluded from the
scheduling, but the ground below is included.
Sources: Archaeology South West (CBA) 16/Winter 2006, 34-38 [interim
fieldwork report] Grumbald's Ash Archaeological Group 'Stanley Meadow
Archaeological Investigation 2008' (incomplete) Grumbald's Ash Archaeological
Group 'Stanley Meadow Archaeological Investigation 2006' Grumbald's Ash
Archaeological Group 'Stanley Meadow Archaeological Investigation 2005'
Grumbald's Ash Archaeological Group 'Stanley Meadow Archaeological
Investigation 2004' Grumbald's Ash Archaeological Group 'Stanley Meadow
Archaeological Investigation 2003' Grumbald's Ash Archaeological Group
'Stanley Meadow Archaeological Investigation 2002' Hendry, G, N. Bannister &
J. Toms 'The Earthworks of an Ancient Woodland' Bristol & Avon Archaeology,
Vol. 3 (1984), 47-53 Ling, Roger 'Inscriptions on Romano-British Mosaics and
Wall-Paintings' Britannia Vol. 38, (2007), 69. Osgood, R, 'Lower Woods
Hawkesbury, Interim Report' (2002) Osgood, R, 'Lower Woods, Hawkesbury,
Research Design 2003-2008' (2003) Tomlin, RSO & MWC Hassall 'Roman Britain in
2004' Britannia (2005) Vol. 36, 483
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: 36060
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Grumbald's Ash Archaeological Group, , Stanley Meadow Archaeological Investigation 2008, (2008)
Grumbald's Ash Archaeological Group, , Stanley Meadow Archaeological Investigation, (2002)
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