Coberley Roman Villa

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1405896
Date first listed:
16-May-2012
Location Description:
To the north of Park Farm, north east of Cowley

Map

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Location

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

Location Description:
To the north of Park Farm, north east of Cowley
County:
Gloucestershire
District:
Cotswold (District Authority)
Parish:
Coberley
National Grid Reference:
SO9675415180

Summary

The buried remains of a Romano-British villa complex, including a mosaic dating from the late 2nd to early 3rd century AD and a site of industrial tile production.

Reasons for Designation

The Romano-British villa at Coberley is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Documentation: extensive records of previous investigations including a geophysical survey and an excavation and evaluation report are available, having increased our understanding and knowledge of this site and enhanced its level of significance as an example of a Romano-British villa complex. * Group value: it stands in a prominent position 2.5 km from the Roman road connecting Gloucester (Glevum) and Cirencester (Corinium), within an area well known for Romano-British villas. * Survival/Condition: a particularly good example of a Romano-British villa that survives well in the form of buried archaeological features, including the remains of a mosaic dating from the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD.

History

Romano-British villas were rural settlements of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings that were constructed throughout the Roman period, from the first to the fourth centuries AD. One of the key criterion of a villa is that it was a rural establishment, independent of larger settlements. They seem to have been a fundamental part of the model of Romanisation, with the spread of a villa-owning elite typically at the centre of an agricultural estate. Villas are often thought of as high-status buildings, with hypocausts, architectural ornamentation and baths as common features. Interestingly though, most excavated sites in Britain appear to have developed from simpler, perhaps ‘lower status’, to ‘higher status’ or more substantial buildings. The term 'villa' is now commonly used to describe either the estate or the buildings themselves.

Villas are found throughout lowland Britain and occasionally beyond. The least elaborate served as simple farmhouses whilst, for the most complex, the term 'palace' is not inappropriate. Most 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. Ancillary buildings may include workshops, storage for agricultural produce and accommodation for farm labourers and were typically arranged around or alongside a courtyard, surrounded by paddocks, pens, yards and features such as granaries, threshing floors, wells and hearths.

Coberley villa is situated within a field marked on the 1839 Tithe Map and Apportionment as 'Whitelands' to the north-east of Cowley. It was first recorded by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments of England in 1976 (RCHME 1976,3 4), and the discovery of a number of Romano-British artefacts in this area during the 1970s and 1980s has also been documented. In 2002-3 metal detectorists reported finding further artefacts and part of a geometric mosaic. Following the discovery, salvage recording by Gloucestershire County Council recovered evidence of a large mosaic dating to the late C2nd or early C3rd AD. In 2004 a geophysical survey of the site produced evidence for the layout of the site and the plan of the building indicating the presence of a principal building that is H-shaped on plan. The survey also identified areas of burnt material and large quantities of rubble in the area as well as evidence for a road that approached the villa from the east. Artefacts recovered from the site indicate that the villa was occupied during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Further excavations were undertaken in 2007 by Channel 4's Time Team, providing additional evidence of the extent and character of the Roman remains, and demonstrating the evolution of the complex from a corridor structure into a winged villa. It also provided evidence for the on-site production of tile (and possibly brick) to the south-east of the main villa building. There is no clear evidence for the date of abandonment of the site, but pottery (both coarse and fine-wares) and coin finds indicate that the site continued to be in use well into the late Roman period.

Details

Coberley villa lies c2.5km north-east of Ermin Street, connecting Gloucester (Glevum) and Cirencester (Corinium). It is positioned on a partly artificial plateau, bounded by a steep wooded bank that runs down to the River Churn on the west side. The site includes the known extent of the villa complex, including the buried foundations of an evolved H-shaped villa building, a series of fields, and evidence of industrial activity including a kiln, set within a rectangular enclosure and approached by a road from the east.

The principal villa building is oriented east-west and measures circa 75m by 50m. Building material recovered during excavation (2007) includes stone; a few bricks; box flue tiles (part of the sophisticated heating system); and stone and clay roof tiles. A Roman mosaic, found during excavation, is dated from the late 2nd to early 3rd century AD, based on stylistic evidence, and is considered to have been situated within the triclinium, or dining room, of the villa. Its design, using coloured tesserae, is based on a grid of squares, probably three by three, each containing a motif including flowers, a guilloche knot and a cup. Both monochrome and polychrome wall plaster fragments were also found suggesting a rich decorative scheme.

Evidence of industrial tile production was found in the south-east corner of the villa complex, circa 100m to the east of the villa building. This includes the remains of a kiln, thought to have been used for on-site production of tile specifically for the villa. The excavation (2007) uncovered a series of limestone walls, the remnants of a flue and roof tiles.

The geophysical survey (2004) shows that the villa is set within a rectangular, ditched, enclosure. The wider villa complex is also bounded by further ditches to the south and east. A central break in the eastern boundary, probably an entrance, gives access to a double-ditched road. Aerial photography (1975) shows this approach to the villa extended further eastwards beyond the current A435.

Exclusions

All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these features however, is included.

Sources

Other
GeoQuest Associates, Geophysical Survey of an Area of Land South of Coberley Village, Gloucestershire, 2004,
Gloucestershire County Council, Arcaeological Salvage Recording at Whitelands Mosaic, Coberley, Gloucestershire, March 2006,
Wessex Archaeology, Coberley Villa, Coberley. Gloucestershire, December 2008,

Legal

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

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