Ancient Monuments

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Parts of a minor Romano-British villa and later medieval barn 545m south east of St Mary's Well

A Scheduled Monument in Portishead, North Somerset

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Latitude: 51.4756 / 51°28'31"N

Longitude: -2.7702 / 2°46'12"W

OS Eastings: 346605.718949

OS Northings: 175457.758678

OS Grid: ST466754

Mapcode National: GBR JH.L7WV

Mapcode Global: VH7C2.X5WP

Entry Name: Parts of a minor Romano-British villa and later medieval barn 545m south east of St Mary's Well

Scheduled Date: 30 May 1958

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007001

English Heritage Legacy ID: NS 90

County: North Somerset

Civil Parish: Portishead

Built-Up Area: Portishead

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes part of a minor Romano-British villa and part of an overlying 13th to 15th century barn, situated on a very slight south-facing rise in the low lying area surrounding the Walton Brook. The villa and barn were discovered during pipe laying in 1956 and survive as entirely buried structures and deposits with no visible surface remains. Partial excavations from 1956-63 and 1983 recovered the corner of a villa building, itself overlain by debris from a marine transgression. The area was re-used during the 13th to 15th centuries by the establishment of a barn in the same location. The villa was also believed to have overlain earlier Iron Age occupation debris, and this may have included an inhumation. A further Roman wall was discovered to the north in the 1983 excavations. The findings also included hypocaust, tiles, stamped Samian and other pottery and quantities of iron slag. Together these indicated a probable 3rd century date for the villa.

Sources: PastScape 195188

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates with groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings at their focus. 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, under-floor 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. 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. Despite partial excavation and subsequent building development in the immediate vicinity, the parts of a minor Romano-British villa and later medieval barn 545m south east of St Mary's Well will retain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their construction, development, longevity, social, political and economic significance, agricultural practices, trade, industrial activity, domestic arrangements, abandonment and overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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