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Roman farmstead and adjacent enclosures 300m east of Rose Hill Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Methwold, Norfolk

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.5561 / 52°33'21"N

Longitude: 0.4176 / 0°25'3"E

OS Eastings: 563995.346515

OS Northings: 298107.520124

OS Grid: TL639981

Mapcode National: GBR N62.QDX

Mapcode Global: VHJF5.604T

Entry Name: Roman farmstead and adjacent enclosures 300m east of Rose Hill Farm

Scheduled Date: 15 December 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009982

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20819

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Methwold

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Hilgay All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Ely

Details

The monument includes the site of a Roman farmstead, located immediately to
the north east of Hilgay island on what was at that time the shelving margin
of the peat fen, just south of the modern course of the River Wissey. It is
situated in pasture, in which the platforms and ditches which define the
rectilinear buildings, yards and paddocks of the farmstead are visible as low
earthworks.

At the core of the site, occupying an area of slightly higher ground, are two
rectangular enclosures, each with a rectangular, raised platform in the north
east corner. The smaller of the two enclosures, to the west of the other, has
internal dimensions of c.26m north-south by c.22m east-west, and the
second measures c.36m by 76m and contains two small internal enclosures in
addition to the raised platform. The two platforms, which are also surrounded
by ditches and which supported buildings, are raised between 0.18m and 0.25m
above the prevailing ground level and measure 14m by 8m and 17m by 12m
respectively. To the south is a complex of several rectangular yards and
closes, the smallest of which measures c.23m north-south by c.18m east-west;
to the north is another enclosure, larger than the rest, measuring
c.50m north-south by 58m east-west internally, and to the east, at a
distance of c.18m from the main complex is a detached enclosure, c.18m by 24m,
which may have contained another building on the raised surface of its
northern half. Two parallel ditches, approximately 26m apart, lead westwards
from the site and define the end of a broad drove. On the north east side of
the site are two small, roughly circular platforms, c.9m and 4m in diameter
respectively, encircled by narrow ditches, and interpreted as stack stands,
probably used for drying hay or peat.

The ditches which define all these features are visible as intersecting linear
hollows 1m to 4m wide and between 0.15m and 0.3m deep. The smaller of the two
enclosures containing building platforms, and the enclosures of similar size
immediately to the south of it, have traces, also, of slight internal banks.
Sherds of Roman pottery dated to the later third and early fourth centuries AD
have been found on the ground surface in the south eastern part of the site
and are evidence for the date and character of occupation.

The field gate and all boundary fences are excluded from the scheduling, as
are electricity poles on the southern boundary of the field, although the
ground beneath these features is included..

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

During the Roman period, particularly during the second century AD, the
Fenland silts around the Wash and areas on and close to the margins of the
peat fens were extensively and often densely occupied and farmed. Rural
settlements were small, comprising individual farmsteads or, more often,
groups of several farmsteads organised in small villages which, with their
associated field systems, were aligned along droves. Droves also served to
link loose clusters of neighbouring settlements in a branching and
intersecting network which might extend over several kilometres. The pattern
of settlement was determined chiefly by the requirements of stock management
and animal husbandry, exploiting pastures on the silts and higher ground, and
the summer grazing and winter fodder provided by the adjacent freshwater fens.
Although arable agriculture was almost certainly practised also, there was an
element of self sufficiency in craft production and in the exploitation of
local resources. Each farmstead was normally contained within a rectangular or
sub-rectangular enclosure or block of enclosures, demarcated by substantial
ditches and including low, thatched buildings of clay and wattle and daub on a
light timber frame, with working areas such as farmyard, stockyard, rickyards
and gardens alongside. Often the buildings were sited on natural hummocks or
on artificially raised platforms. The earliest of such settlements, which are
dated to the later first century AD, are generally very small and differ
little in general appearance from certain settlements of the preceding Iron
Age, although Iron Age settlements in the Fenland region are not so numerous
or widespread. During the second century, when small and large-scale
engineering projects, including the construction of roads and canals, were
carried out widely in the Fens, the size and complexity of the settlements
tended to increase and the layout of droves and fields to become more regular.
Many were, however, abandoned in the third century AD because of increasing
problems of flooding and drainage. Numerous Roman settlements of this type,
with their associated field systems, have been recorded in the Fens,
particularly through air photography, and they serve to illustrate both the
nature of small-scale farming during the period of the Roman occupation and
the ways in which a local population adapted to and exploited a particular
environment. Many of the sites have, however, been reduced by medieval and
later agriculture, and very few remain with upstanding earthworks, with a
varied range of identifiable features and/or evidence for the survival of
environmental remains. Consequently, all sites which survive as earthworks or
which have a varied range of identifiable features are considered to be of
national importance.

The farmstead 300m east of Rose Hill Farm includes a variety of different
components and is unusual in that the upstanding earthworks survive well, the
stack stands being a particularly rare survival in earthwork form. As an
earthwork site of this type in West Norfolk, Hilgay is thought to be a
unique survival. It will retain a wide range of archaeological information
concerning the organisation, development and duration of the farmstead, and
evidence for domestic life, farming practices and the local environment will
be preserved in deposits in and beneath the building platforms and enclosure
banks, in the infill of the ditches, and in soils within the enclosures. The
building platforms will also contain evidence for structures.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Leah, M, Mathews, M, Fenland Evaluation Project: Norfolk, (1990)
Silvester, R J, 'Norfolk Archaeology' in Settlement earthworks at Hilgay, , Vol. 40, (1989), 194-199

Source: Historic England

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