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Minor Romano-British villa 650m north-east of Hewish Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Puxton, North Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.3831 / 51°22'59"N

Longitude: -2.8563 / 2°51'22"W

OS Eastings: 340505.0939

OS Northings: 165238.430886

OS Grid: ST405652

Mapcode National: GBR JC.S489

Mapcode Global: VH7CF.FHVL

Entry Name: Minor Romano-British villa 650m north-east of Hewish Farm

Scheduled Date: 23 October 1954

Last Amended: 27 January 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011262

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22843

County: North Somerset

Civil Parish: Puxton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Details

The monument includes the site of a minor Romano-British villa situated 650m
north-east of Hewish Farm on low-lying ground adjacent to the River
Congresbury Yeo in the area of the Somerset Levels.

The villa, which was discovered in 1884, is orientated northwest-southeast and
now occupies a low depression c.1m deep, 22m from east to west and 50m from
north to south. The depression is likely to have been created during partial
excavation of the site in 1884. Traces of the villa are visible as low
turf-covered banks c.0.2m high and 4m wide.

The excavations exposed much of the building and the structure was found to
have an unusual rectilinear form, with most rooms situated at its north-
western end. The bath suite was situated near to the rear of the building
where there were also traces of a staircase.

The eastern range, which included the main entrance, is located towards the
river and can be traced as far as the modern flood defence bank. The building
may have been associated with a dock or quay; however, this cannot be
confirmed, as the more recent flood defence bank obscures the relationship
between the terminal of the building and the riverside.

Partial excavation produced the remains of five mosiac floors together with a
tessellated pavement, two hypocausts and several furnaces. Some of the rooms
were also decorated with painted wall plaster. Other finds include 21 coins
dated to between AD 250-360, sherds of samian pottery, sherds of Romano-
British coarse wares, glass, iron and bone objects, bricks, tiles and roofing
slates.

The surrounding field contains earthworks, some of which are contemporary with
the villa, but most relate to the post-medieval drainage of the Levels. To the
north of the villa are two enclosures with dimensions of 21m from east to west
and 30m from north to south. These are likely to represent Romano-British
features as both differ significantly in form from the surrounding post-
medieval earthworks. It is likely that stock or other provisions were kept
within these enclosures as they are situated on slightly higher ground than
the villa and would have been above the water-level for most of the year.

A Roman stone coffin containing a human burial in fragments of a lead coffin
was also discovered within the field surrounding the villa in 1828, although
the precise location is not known.

MAP EXTRACT
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
important.

The site of the minor Romano-British villa 650m north-east of Hewish Farm
survives well and is known from partial excavation to contain archaeological
and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the Levels landscape
in which it was constructed. The monument is of unusual form, perhaps
reflecting its unusual setting. This is one of only very few such sites to
have been identified on the Somerset Levels.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306-7
Haverfield, P, A History of Somerset, (1906), 306-7

Source: Historic England

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