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Roman villa south of Hill Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Lambourne, Essex

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Latitude: 51.6588 / 51°39'31"N

Longitude: 0.1276 / 0°7'39"E

OS Eastings: 547257.494112

OS Northings: 197703.684738

OS Grid: TQ472977

Mapcode National: GBR QQ.0TW

Mapcode Global: VHHMT.5K9P

Entry Name: Roman villa south of Hill Farm

Scheduled Date: 11 November 1969

Last Amended: 20 August 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008893

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24857

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Lambourne

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Theydon Bois St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes the remains of a Roman villa situated on a south facing
slope overlooking the River Roding.
A complex of substantial buried masonry buildings with walls between 0.6m and
1.4m thick with hypocaust system and tessellated floors is known from the
partial excavation of the site. These are surrounded by an area of occupation
which has been identified from a spread of pottery and tile on the ground
surface which extends to the north, east and west. To the south the scatter of
material representing the main buildings extends as far as the river.
A bronze vase and lead ossuary (container for bones) were found in the
vicinity of the buildings in 1863. In 1966 a spread of Roman roof and
hypocaust tiles was found during field survey and in 1967 and 1968 the site
was partially excavated. Pottery sherds recovered from the excavations showed
that the villa site had been occupied throughout the Roman period up until the
fourth century.
All fences and fenceposts are excluded from the monument although the ground
beneath these is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates at the focus of which were
groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings. 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,
underfloor 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 to
distinguish them from `major' villas. The latter were a very small group of
extremely substantial and opulent villas built by the very wealthiest members
of Romano-British society. 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. As a very diverse and often long-lived type of monument, a
significant proportion of the known population are identified as nationally

The Roman villa south of Hill Farm survives well. Only a small percentage of
the known area of the site was excavated leaving the majority of the site
undisturbed. The excavations indicated that the remaining masonry and floor
levels preserve the internal layout of the main villa building with a
substantial depth of deposits in some areas. The buildings are on a large
scale and suggest that the villa was one of the richest in this area of Essex.
The Roman villa south of Hill Farm retains information which is valuable in
our understanding of the life style and economy of the Romano-British
aristocracy during an interesting period of adjustment to colonial rule.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brooks, R T, 'Essex Journal' in The Roman Villa at Hill Farm, Abridge, , Vol. Vol 12, (1977), 51-61
Clark, F R, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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