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


Ordnance survey map of Roman villa and bathhouse remains in Lower Woods, 115m north west of Lower Woods Lodge
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: South Gloucestershire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Hawkesbury

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 important.

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)

End of official listing