The buried remains of a Roman villa dating from the mid- to late Roman period, with evidence for some post-Roman activities on the site.
Reasons for Designation
The villa to the south-west of Ketton which dates from the late Roman period and also has evidence for post-Roman occupation is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: as a substantial and well-appointed villa that survives well in the form of stratified archaeological deposits. Its mosaic is an important example of late Roman art in Britain and provides a fascinating insight into the wealth and status of the villa’s occupants.
* Potential: buried archaeological deposits will increase our understanding of the character and occupation of the villa during the Roman period and also post-abandonment.
* Diversity: for the particularly wide range of features, including the main villa building, bath house and agricultural buildings, as well as a probable Saxon aisled hall, all arranged within a large ditched complex.
* Documentation: the level of documentation resulting from archaeological investigations is high and has contributed greatly to our understanding and knowledge of the monument and has enhanced its significance.
Romano-British villas were constructed throughout the period of Roman occupation, from the first to the fourth centuries AD. They are amongst the most characteristic settlements of the Roman period, distinguished by an adoption of Roman traits such as rectilinear building types featuring wall-paintings, mosaics, hypocausts and bath suites. They often formed the focus of extensive rural estates, alongside domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings, and this is reflected in the considerable diversity in their plan. 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. A typical villa took the form of a well-appointed house, usually rectangular, with an adjoining or separate bath suite, and a number of ancillary buildings with associated yards and enclosures. Most were partly or wholly stone built, and some may have featured an upper storey. They are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled to fit changing circumstances.
The Roman villa south-west of Ketton was first identified on Google Earth imagery from June 2018 which depicted the cropmarks of a large rectangular building which appeared to have at least three apsidal features and an attached structure at its north-east corner; a series of linear features were also visible. Part of a mosaic was subsequently discovered at the site and was followed by a programme of archaeological investigations, including an assessment of the cropmark evidence, an aerial photogrammetry survey of the area, geophysical surveys, evaluation trenches and test pits (ULAS, 2021). Further archaeological fieldwork, including additional excavation, took place during late summer 2021 (ULAS, as yet unpublished). The investigations have confirmed the presence of a substantial villa consisting of a group of buildings and courtyards enclosed by boundary ditches. Finds recovered from the site indicate that it was occupied from the mid- or later third century until the later fourth century AD. There is also evidence for post-Roman activity.
The monument includes a Roman villa, comprising the principal villa building and a series of associated ancillary buildings, enclosed to a large extent by a series of ditches. It is situated on a gentle south-facing slope on the north side of the River Chater and dates from the mid- or later third century to the later fourth century AD. The archaeological remains survive as buried features; no earthworks or above-ground structures are present.
Geophysical survey and excavation have provided clear evidence for the layout of the villa. The complex is defined by a series of five parallel, though relatively insubstantial gullies and ditches to the west and north; the northern ones have been truncated by a railway line. Further to the west are two roughly-parallel ditches which curve around the south side of the villa, following the contours of the slope above the River Chater and becoming less apparent further to the east. A trench through the ditches showed that they measured 1.9m and 2.5m wide respectively and around 1m deep, and each had sloping sides and a flat base. Few finds were recovered, but the presence of some pot sherds of the late third and fourth century, ceramic building material (CBM) and animal bone appears to indicate the deliberate backfilling of at least some sections of the ditches to the south. They may have formed part of the villa’s southern boundary, though they could possibly be Iron Age features. A single, north-south aligned ditch may define the north-eastern limit of the villa, but it too could be earlier since coins and pottery from the later third and fourth century, as well as oyster shells and animal bone were recovered from the ditch fill. A well-defined linear ditched feature visible to the south-east may be an approach road to the villa. Geophysics carried out north of the railway line revealed a short section of a linear feature, possibly the north side of an enclosure extending north-eastwards, but little other archaeological evidence.
At least seven Roman buildings have been identified within the villa complex, most of which seem to be loosely arranged around the site. In addition, several other buildings are present which may be later in date, possibly early medieval. Some of them were partly excavated in 2020 and 2021 (ULAS, see Sources). The geophysical surveys results suggest that the principal building may be similar to a double portico/corridor-type villa, with rooms arranged around an internal courtyard or garden, and linked structures projecting eastwards at either end. It is orientated north-west to south-east, with the room in the north end of the main building extending into a polygonal apse and two further apsidal rooms identified at the opposite end of the building. Part of a mosaic was uncovered within this building which comprised three rectangular panels, each portraying a scene from the story of the conflict between Achilles and Hector and its aftermath during the Siege of Troy as described in Iliad, an epic poem written by the Greek poet Homer in the eighth century BC. Part of a fourth panel, though badly disturbed, was also found (ULAS, September 2021) which appeared to contain two square blocks of guilloche pattern and possibly a figure between them, though only part of an arm was evident. The panels were divided by bands of guilloche, with wide bands of four-strand guilloche to the edges and blocks of larger tesserae beyond. There was evidence of repairs, that the mosaic had suffered some historic damage with areas of scorching and the loss of some tesserae, and that a hearth was subsequently built on part of it. Such evidence suggests that the room containing the mosaic had later ceased to be used for its original purpose. A second hearth was identified in the south-east corner of the same room. The excavations also uncovered evidence that several other rooms may have had mosaic floors. Fragments of painted wall plaster and decorative marble, and the remains of a hypocaust system were also uncovered. The rectangular building immediately north-east of the main range, possibly a service building, was found to have internal subdivisions, corridors and a possible colonnade or portico on its north side. There was a small square structure beyond its north-west corner. All three of these buildings were overlaid by a rubble layer, containing some tile and displaced tesserae, which appears to be from the demolition or collapse of the building; there was also evidence of burning. Several human burials, including two within the apse of one of the rooms in the main range, and the skeleton of a dog were found in the upper levels of this layer. These remains were poorly preserved but could be evidence for the subsequent re-use of the buildings in the early-medieval period.
The other villa buildings are thought to be stone-built, although limited excavation has meant that it cannot be established if they retain in-situ foundations or survive as layers of demolition rubble. There is also currently little dating evidence from most of them. To the west of the principal villa building is a group of three or four buildings which are L-shaped on plan and, together with the principal building, appear to form three sides of a large enclosure or courtyard. This group are interpreted as a possible corridor-type building that is smaller than the main building and two agricultural or industrial buildings, one has a circular plan and the other is rectangular. Further south is a large rectangular building with internal wall divisions, suggesting it has multiple rooms, and what appears to be two parallel rows of either column bases or large post pits. Its proximity to the river suggests it may be a bath house. A stone structure with flues, channels and an associated hearth, possibly a large corndrier was also identified, though it contained few cereal remains. However, there was evidence elsewhere on the site for large-scale crop processing. Another large rectangular structure on the break of slope to the south-east of the principal building is possibly a workshop or agricultural building. The geophysics also identified two parallel rows of post holes, possibly a timber aisled structure, just south-west of the L-shaped group. It has a different orientation to the stone building nearby and appears to also intersect it. It may date to a different phase of occupation and it may be early medieval. The geophysics results indicate that it stands close to an irregular-shaped stone building.
The excavations have revealed rubbish and storage pits, post pits and gullies, burnt or fired features such as hearths or ovens, and metal working. Finds included a stratified assemblage of mostly mid- to late Roman pottery, mostly Lower Nene Valley wares; unstratified coins dating from the later third to later fourth century; and animal bones from cattle, sheep, pig and horse. There were few small finds. Among the Roman building material were fragments of ceramic roofing and flue tile, stone roofing slate, building stone and mosaic flooring tesserae.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING
The area of protection aims to include the current known extent of nationally important archaeological remains of the Roman villa and the probable Anglo-Saxon features. The monument is bounded to the north by the Birmingham to Peterborough railway, and to the south and west by the River Chater. The eastern boundary is not clearly defined by a feature on the ground and has been determined from the results of the geophysical surveys and it, therefore, follows a field boundary on this side of the monument.
Further below-ground archaeology may survive beyond the scheduled area, and a single linear anomaly was identified during the survey on the north side of the railway. At the present time, however, we do not have sufficient evidence to demonstrate the survival of nationally important archaeological remains beyond those currently identified, particularly in the areas to the east and north of the scheduled area. It is not, therefore possible to justify their inclusion. Should further evidence of archaeological survival and potential come to light, the extent of the scheduling may be reconsidered.
All fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these is included.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 12 October 2022 to amend the name