Aiskew Roman villa, 550m west of Aiskew Grange

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1426407
Date first listed:
01-Apr-2015
Location Description:
Located approximately 550m west of Aiskew Grange Farm and 550m north of Sand Hill Farm centred at SE 27359 89912.

Map

Ordnance survey map of Aiskew Roman villa, 550m west of Aiskew Grange
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Location

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

Location Description:
Located approximately 550m west of Aiskew Grange Farm and 550m north of Sand Hill Farm centred at SE 27359 89912.
County:
North Yorkshire
District:
Hambleton (District Authority)
Parish:
Aiskew
National Grid Reference:
SE2733989918

Summary

A large and complex Roman villa occupied in the third and fourth centuries AD, set in an extensive area of associated yards and enclosures including further buildings and features, all surviving as a series of buried features and deposits.

Reasons for Designation

Aiskew Roman villa is scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Period and rarity: as a Roman villa which is exceptionally large, rich and complex in a northern context; * Diversity: the monument includes a main building displaying a particularly wide range of features, set in large complex including further buildings and in turn surrounded by an extensive area of enclosures with a wide range of further features considered to relate to the villa's exploitation of its wider estate; * Survival: very good preservation of deeply stratified deposits and finds including bone and ironwork; * Potential: overall the monument has considerable archaeological potential to inform us about a significant Roman villa in third and fourth century Yorkshire.

History

Roman villas represent the most Romanised and high status rural settlements occupied during the first to fourth centuries AD, their buildings forming the focus of extensive rural estates. Although some were probably built by settlers from the wider Roman Empire, many are thought to have been built by the native elite, often sited on or nearby earlier Iron Age farmsteads. Roman villas were typically made up of a complex of buildings with associated yards and enclosures, the majority of buildings being rectilinear in form in marked contrast to native round houses. The main structure is typically identified as a dwelling and could adopt a number of plan forms including those incorporating a corridor linking projecting wings, aisled structures and courtyard plans. Frequently there is evidence of later extensions and alterations. Most were partly or wholly stone-built, and some may have featured an upper storey - thus thought to be amongst the earliest structures to lift occupation above the ground surface. Unlike many rural settlements, which appeared to operate only just above subsistence level, villas frequently exhibit evidence of luxury such as rooms with under-floor heating, painted plasterwork, tiled floors, mosaics and even window glass. Beyond the main dwelling house, villas typically include further buildings and structures such as bath-houses, shrines, domestic accommodation for estate workers, granaries, barns and workshops. The most complex sites have multiple courtyards and are surrounded by many small enclosures thought to have been garden plots, paddocks and yards. Several hundred Roman villas have been identified in lowland England, mainly as buried sites often identified from cropmarks. Of these around 1-2% are categorised as major villas, especially large and complex sites thought to be of particularly high status. Most Roman villas were built in southern England and the Midlands with only a small number identified in Yorkshire.

The Aiskew Roman villa, 0.5km north of Sand Hill, was identified during archaeological investigations in advance of the construction of the Bedale, Aiskew, Leeming Bar bypass road. Geophysical survey reported in July 2013 indicated an extensive complex of buildings and associated enclosures, the western part of which was investigated by excavation between November 2014 and February 2015. A small part of the western side of the site, that part due to be destroyed by road construction, was fully excavated, with a wider area to the east, but still only extending over a small part of the site, stripped of topsoil and planned to provide context. The fully excavated area included a room about 4m by 4m internally interpreted as a western extension to the northern range of the main villa building. This had substantial foundations suggesting that it was of two storeys, the ground floor having a hypocaust (under-floor heating) and collapsed remains of painted wall plaster. The excavation demonstrated excellent preservation of bone and other faunal remains, including extensive evidence for the exploitation of marine resources including oyster and mussel shells. Iron work was also found to be well preserved. The stripped area uncovered in situ floor surfaces, including opus signinum (cemented) flooring and small areas of tesserae (flooring formed from small tile and stone blocks), along with fragments of window glass and large areas of collapsed painted wall plaster.

Datable finds indicate that the villa was occupied in the third and fourth centuries AD and was a particularly high status site. It has been suggested that the main villa building was designed to form an impressive landmark to those travelling along Dere Street between the Roman towns at Alborough (25km south) and Catterick (10km north). After abandonment, the buildings appear to have been carefully robbed of building stone, although the site also includes demolition rubble which includes roofing materials in the form of both tiles and stone slates.

Details

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: Roman villa with associated enclosures surviving as a series of buried features and deposits.

DESCRIPTION: the villa lies within gently undulating land about 1.5km south west of Dere Street, the main Roman road northwards which is now largely followed by the modern A1 to Scotch Corner. The villa occupies an artificially built-up terrace on a slight westwards facing spur overlooking the Scurf Beck. The main building features a broad north-south corridor linking wings at either end which project westwards. The northern wing had a western extension in the form of a single room which has been fully excavated and found to have been provided with under-floor heating. The upper deposits of the corridor and adjacent rooms were uncovered by excavation of the topsoil, but left in situ. These areas were shown to include intact floor surfaces, with wall lines generally marked by neatly cut robber trenches.

Both the north and south wings also extend eastwards beyond the excavated area as building ranges to north and south of a courtyard. Geophysical survey data suggests that the southern range extends the furthest, at least 75m eastwards, appearing to be made up of a series of stone-founded buildings. Towards the eastern end, a large spread of fired material suggests the presence of a bath house. Extending to the east of the buildings, geophysical survey has identified a complex of rectilinear ditched enclosures and other features interpreted as being directly associated with the villa. These are interpreted as contemporary enclosures and timber structures, but may include farmstead remains pre-dating the construction of the stone buildings. The geophysical survey did not identify the eastern limits of this complex but did identify the north western corner of a further set of rectilinear features centred some 300m to the north east of the stone buildings which suggests that the complex extends at least 300m east of the main villa building.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: this has been defined using information from the 2013 geophysical survey report to include the full extent of the villa complex except where truncated to the west by the line of the A684 Leeming Bar, Aiskew, Bedale bypass. The area also includes the full extent of the complex of enclosures and other features identified by the geophysical survey and considered to be associated with the villa. The survey is thought to have identified the northern and southern limits of this complex, but not the eastern limits. Consequently the south eastern corner of the monument extends beyond the area surveyed to simplify the extent of the scheduling, and to include land which is considered to retain further buried remains associated with the villa. However, because the eastern limits of the site have not been identified, it is possible that the wider villa complex extends beyond the area of the scheduling on this eastern side. The boundaries of the monument include an additional margin for its support and protection, this margin being a minimum of 2m, but generally wider so that the boundaries of the scheduling can be simplified into straight lines.

EXCLUSIONS: fence lines within the area of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, however the ground beneath these features is included.

Sources

Other
"A684 Bedale, Aiskew and Leeming Bar Bypass: re-processing and interpretation of geophysical survey data" July 2013 Archaeological Services University of Durham
Information provided by Prospect Archaeology from their excavations November 2014-February 2015.

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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