Romano-British pottery site, prehistoric ring-ditches and enclosures, including medieval ridge and furrow, Lower Farm, Nuneham Courtenay


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
The fields to the south and east of Lower Farm, Lower Farm Lane, Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire.


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1471867.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 16-Jan-2021 at 19:11:55.


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

Location Description:
The fields to the south and east of Lower Farm, Lower Farm Lane, Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire.
South Oxfordshire (District Authority)
Nuneham Courtenay
National Grid Reference:


Buried remains of a large Romano-British pottery dating from the early 2nd century AD to the 4th century AD with underlying prehistoric ring ditches and enclosures, including overlaying medieval ridge and furrow.

Reasons for Designation

The Romano-British pottery site, underlying prehistoric ring-ditches and enclosures, including overlaying medieval ridge and furrow at Lower Farm, Nuneham Courtenay are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: large-scale Romano-British pottery sites are rare nationally and are considered to be nationally significant. The high degree of loss of medieval ridge and furrow over the last half century means that, whilst not as rare, surviving examples are nationally significant, particularly if physically associated with other archaeological features;

* Survival: the buried remains of the Romano-British pottery survive particularly well, and are an especially intact group retaining a range of features;

* Potential: only a small proportion of the site has been-excavated. Geophysical survey indicates extensive and varied archaeological remains across the wider site, meaning that the site has the potential to preserve an especially good range of additional artefactual and environmental evidence for the Romano-British pottery industry;

* Documentation: the site was partially excavated and published and is the subject of extensive geophysical survey.


Roman pottery production in Britain started soon after the Roman conquest around AD 40-50 and continued into the 5th century. The peak of production was during the 2nd century, after which the number of production centres began to diminish. Pottery made in Britain was supplemented by a wide range of ceramics imported into Britain from elsewhere in the Roman Empire. Early examples of Roman potteries are concentrated in the south and east, principally in the Nene Valley and Kent areas. In the 2nd century, potteries became more widespread, with rare northern examples being restricted to sites with military associations. In the 3rd and 4th centuries the main focus for pottery production was along the navigable rivers of the central southern and south and east of the country. By the end of the 4th century production was restricted to parts of North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and limited areas of the south east.

All of the nearly 400 known potteries in England are located with ready access to markets, and all are situated close to necessary raw materials such as suitable clay, water and fuel. Potteries are often found in clusters, in both urban and rural areas. Although there was some variation throughout the country, all Roman potteries broadly included the same elements: kiln drying chambers and associated structures such as work sheds, preparation floors, stores and sometimes accommodation for the workforce. Some potteries had fewer than five kilns, others upwards of 35. The pottery site may also be situated within a larger industrial complex which accommodated other crafts with similar technological needs, such as iron smelting.

The Oxford Roman pottery industry was one of the largest of its kind in Roman Britain, with sites mainly on the east bank of the River Thames running for around 19km from Noke, north-east of Oxford, perhaps as far as Dorchester-on-Thames to the south. Overall, approximately 30 production sites are known. The site at Golden Balls, north of Dorchester, is scheduled (National Heritage List for England 1006337). The area occupied by the industry is best seen as a landscape within which production complexes, varying in size and in the density of kilns, were located (mostly) in ditched enclosures, interspersed between agricultural fields and the woodland which was a crucial resource for the industry. Established in the 1st century AD, the industry grew to be of regional importance in the 2nd century, while new lines of production introduced from the middle of the 3rd century were disseminated much more widely. By the early 4th century a range of specialised products (colour-coated fine wares derived from the Continental samian ware tradition, white ware mortaria and the red-painted white ‘parchment ware’) was distributed across southern and central Britain and the extent and density of these distributions indicate that Oxford was the single most important producer of such wares in Britain in the 4th century. In these terms the industry was of national importance from at least the later 3rd century if not earlier.

The Romano-British kiln site at Lower Farm, Nuneham Courtenay was partly excavated by the Oxford Archaeological Unit (OAU) in 1991 after being discovered during the laying of the Didcot to Oxford water main where it crossed a field of medieval ridge and furrow. This had formed part of Lower Field, one of Nuneham Courtenay’s four medieval open fields, which were broken up into smaller lots in the late-C18.

The initial excavation of a 200m long trench along the route of the pipeline revealed three distinct archaeological zones. An apparent settlement area at the north end of the site with ditches, pits and postholes and a burial of a number of infants; a workshop area to the south with a stone lined pit for clay storage, stone drying racks and a well (filled with discarded pots) and to the south of this a large pot dump extending approximately 100m from north to south and at least 15m from east to west with a depth of up to 1.2m. No kilns were found in this excavation phase.

The Ancient Monuments Laboratory (AMLab) carried out a follow-up geophysical survey in the summer of 1992. A linear pattern of rectangular enclosures was identified, with an adjacent roadway along its eastern edge. A number of kilns were suggested by the survey and three ring ditches in the north-east corner of the survey area. The survey also revealed possible prehistoric features. In 1994 and 1996 further geophysical surveys, and fieldwalking in 1995, were undertaken, examining a larger area to the east of the excavated site. These revealed further prehistoric features, most likely of Iron Age date, apparently underlying a broadly west to east aligned complex of enclosures lying on both sides of a ditched trackway. Clusters of anomalies, interpreted as pottery kilns numbering between 40 and 50, were located within some of the enclosures. The fieldwalking recovered a fairly dense spread of pottery (some 4000 sherds) from across most of the area in which geophysical anomalies were revealed and established that the site clearly extends at least as far east as the A4074. Analysis of the pottery suggests that production probably commenced in the early 2nd century AD and continued into the 4th century and included glazed and mica-dusted wares, fine moulded grey ware and, in the second half of the 4th century, colour-coated beakers in a style quite different from that of the well-known late Roman fine wares.

Additional archaeological investigation relating to the proposed route of the Abingdon Pipeline was carried out by Cotswold Archaeology. This included a fieldwalking survey in 2003 along the east and south boundaries of the site which found significant quantities of Roman pottery sherds, and an excavation in 2004 of a pit containing Roman pottery on the eastern boundary of the site.

A watching brief by OAU at Lower Farm Barns in 1996 did not reveal any archaeological features or finds suggesting that the Roman pottery site did not extend to the area around the farm itself.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: Romano-British pottery kiln site dating from the early 2nd to the 4th century AD comprising a series of rectangular enclosures arranged on either side of a ditched trackway containing potentially between 40 and 50 kilns. Other features include settlement and workshop areas and a large pot dump. Underlying the Roman remains are a number of probable Iron Age ring ditches and overlaying part of the site to the west is an area of medieval ridge and furrow surviving as earthworks. The prehistoric and Roman remains survive as buried archaeological deposits revealed by partial excavation and subsequent geophysical surveys.

DESCRIPTION: the site is situated on the east bank of the River Thames in the fields to the south and east of Lower Farm, either side of the Didcot to Oxford water main which runs from north to south. Directly south of Lower Farm within the medieval Lower Field is a field of undisturbed medieval ridge and furrow under pasture. To the east and north-east, the archaeological remains extend to the east across an arable field under a modern ploughing regime as far east as the A4074 which runs north-south. The potential archaeological deposits cover an area of around 0.18 square kilometres. It is possible that deposits continue on the east side of the A4074.

The kiln site extends either side of a ditched trackway which runs west to east from approximately NGR SP5373500555 to the A4074 at NGR SP5429500689. It includes well-preserved rectangular ditched enclosures laid out in a row either side of the trackway. The enclosures are relatively regular in size and shape with main axes ranging from 40m to 60m. The enclosures contain a large number of potential kilns, arranged in at least six distinct groups.

The excavated area consisted of a 200m long trench, varying in width from one to four metres, running north-south along the route of the water main, between NGR SP5379300608 and SP5381500396. This revealed three distinct zones of later Roman activity. In the north there was evidence of settlement with a number of ditches, pits, post-holes and seven neonate (newborn) infant burials. South of this was an area identified as a workshop area where a number of pottery activities took place. This included a clay pit lined with limestone slabs, other shallow, stone-lined pits without clay filling (possibly pot-drying racks), drains for water supply and a well with infill containing large amounts of pottery (mainly dating to the late 3rd or early 4th century), fired clay and kiln debris. To the south of the workshop area was a large pot dump stretching for around 100m with recognisable discrete areas of dumped pottery.

There are a number of annular features, probably Iron Age ring-ditches, in the field to the south of Lower Farm, ranging in size from 10m to 17m in diameter. There is also a large sub-rectangular enclosure, around 20m square, with an entrance to the east, of possible Iron Age date at approximately NGR SP5394600568.

The medieval ridge and furrow covers the field directly to the south of Lower Farm. Ridges and furrows are on average 6.5m and 5m wide respectively, with an average distance between ridge centres of 11m.

EXCLUSIONS: all fences and fence posts, gates and gateposts, electricity pylons and their bases and subterranean pipelines and drainage pipes are excluded from the scheduling. However, the ground beneath all these features is included.


Books and journals
Swan, V G, The Pottery Kilns of Roman Britain, (1984)
Young, Christopher J (Author), The Roman pottery industry of the Oxford region, (2000)
'Cotswold Archaeology, Abingdon Pipeline' in South Midlands Archaeology, , Vol. 34, (2004), 55-58
Keevill, GD, 'Nuneham Courtenay, Lower Farm' in South Midlands Archaeology, , Vol. 26, (1996), 57-58
Booth, Paul, Boyle, Angela, Keevill, Graham D, 'A Romano-British kiln site at Lower Farm, Nuneham Courtenay, and other sites on the Didcot to Oxford and Wootton to Abingdon water mains, Oxfordshire' in Oxoniensia, , Vol. 58, (1993), 87-217
Keevill, Graham D, 'Going to Pot at Nuneham Courtenay' in Oxford Archaeological Unit Newsletter, (December 1991), 3
Keevill, GD , Parkinson, A, Parsons, M, 'Nuneham Courtenay, Lower Farm' in South Midlands Archaeology, , Vol. 22, (1992), 49
Hillier, J, 'Sandford-on-Thames, Lower Farm Barns' in South Midlands Archaeology, , Vol. 27, (1997), 61
Keevill, GD, Cole, M, 'Nuneham Courtenay, Lower Farrn' in South Midlands Archaeology, , Vol. 23, (1993), 73-74
Keevill, GD, Cole, M, 'Nuneham Courtenay, Lower Farrn' in South Midlands Archaeology, , Vol. 25, (1995), 53-54
AW Payne and Mark Cole, Lower Farm, Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire: Report on Geophysical Surveys, April 1992, November 1994 and 1996 - Historic England Research Report 225 (2020), accessed 5 October 2020 from
Cotswold Archaeology - Abingdon Pipeline: Fieldwalking Survey (April 2003), accessed 05 October 2020 from
Oxford City Council - Oxford Archaeological Resource Assessment 2011: Roman, accessed 28 October 2020 from
Oxfordshire Historic Environment Record - 1428 - Romano-British Pottery Production Site (Lower Farn), accessed 11 August 2020 from
Oxford Archaeological Unit - Archaeological Watching Brief Report: Lower Farm Barns, Sandford on Thames, Oxfordshire (October 1996)
Oxford Archaeological Unit - Report on the Evaluation of a Romano-British Kiln Site, Lower Farm, Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire (March 1996)


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].