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Roman villa at Chinnel Barn

A Scheduled Monument in Wendens Ambo, Essex

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Latitude: 52.0026 / 52°0'9"N

Longitude: 0.1937 / 0°11'37"E

OS Eastings: 550680.615908

OS Northings: 236071.081894

OS Grid: TL506360

Mapcode National: GBR MC7.FS7

Mapcode Global: VHHL3.9XRN

Entry Name: Roman villa at Chinnel Barn

Scheduled Date: 16 September 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008894

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24861

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Wendens Ambo

Built-Up Area: Wendens Ambo

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex


The monument includes a corridor Roman villa complex with associated features
approximately 400m to the south west of Wendens Ambo, in the immediate
vicinity of Chinnel Barns. The site lies on the north facing slope of a
tributary valley of the River Cam, with an underlying geology of mixed chalk
and boulder clay.
The complex includes the buried masonry remains of foundations, walls and
floors of the main villa building. These and other buried remains are known
from the partial excavation and geophysical survey of the site. The main
building is aligned east-west and measures some 40m in length and 16m wide
with projecting wings and an apsidal central room. To the south and east of
this masonry building are buried ditches, pits, and building foundations
indicating the location of the associated estate features such as barns,
granaries, yards, paddocks, fields, etc.
Partial excavation was initially undertaken by R C Neville in 1853, which
concentrated on the villa building. Further survey and excavation took place
to the east of the main villa prior to the construction of the M11. Large
scale excavations were undertaken in 1973/4 revealing a complex of
intercutting pit and post holes together with the foundations of a substantial
building. Five phases of occupation were identified ranging in date from the
Late Iron Age through to the fourth century AD.
Further evaluation work was undertaken in 1993, consisting of fieldwalking,
geophysical survey and trial trenches on the western edge of the motorway.
Again evidence of many ditches and pits was found.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fences, fenceposts, Chinnel Barn itself
and other building superstructures. The ground beneath all of these features,
apart from that beneath Chinnel Barn is, however, 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

Partial excavation of the site of the Roman villa at Chinnel Barn has
demonstrated the location and layout of the villa buildings while more recent
excavations concentrated on the area which now lies beneath the motorway.
These excavations revealed that the well preserved remains of a rich villa
building with the majority of the associated estate features survive. The
monument also includes the remains of the Iron Age farmstead which predated
the Roman villa. This continuity of settlement is valuable for our
understanding the settlement patterns and changing agricultural practices
which occured throughout the period in which this monument was occupied.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hodder, I, The Archaeology of the M11: Excavations at Wendens Ambo, (1982)
Nevill, R C, Braybrook Diaries, (1853)
Atkinson, M, Site of Roman Villa, Wendens Ambo, Essex: Stage II Assessment, 1993, Part of Environmental assessment.

Source: Historic England

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