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Roman villa south of Alphamstone church

A Scheduled Monument in Alphamstone, Essex

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Latitude: 51.9852 / 51°59'6"N

Longitude: 0.7347 / 0°44'4"E

OS Eastings: 587884.577171

OS Northings: 235389.120617

OS Grid: TL878353

Mapcode National: GBR RKG.DL6

Mapcode Global: VHKFH.PC8H

Entry Name: Roman villa south of Alphamstone church

Scheduled Date: 7 August 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011807

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24872

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Alphamstone

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Alphamstone St Barnabas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a Roman villa complex situated to the south of
Alphamstone church. This lies on the crest of an east facing slope in an area
of undulating mixed boulder clay and gravel hills. The location of the villa
is known through a surface scatter of building material and pottery sherds
within the ploughsoil. The scatter marks the site of buried features and
deposits which include wall foundations, pits and ditches.
The southern boundary of the churchyard lies on the line of a rubble and
mortar wall believed to be of Roman date. Further wall foundations as well as
burnt material indicating the presence of occupation deposits within the
ploughsoil have been noted extending from this wall to the south.
Fragments of tegulae and imbrices (both are types of roof tile indicating the
presence of buildings roofed in tile), box flue tile, tesserae and pottery
have been found in substantial quantities in the ploughsoil extending across
an area c.100m east-west and c.120m north-south. Many fragments of Roman brick
and tile have also been recovered from grave digging within the churchyard.
A cropmark has been noted at TL87873540 comprising a rectangle 10m x 7m. This
area was surveyed in 1993 and large quantities of Roman building material were
noted. The area of the cropmark indicates the location of one of the main
buildings within the villa complex. Other recent finds from the monument
include painted wall plaster which suggests that the villa complex included at
least one prestigious building. The standing churchyard wall is excluded from
the scheduling, although the ground beneath it 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 to the south of Alphamstone church survives well beneath the
ploughsoil. The collection of building material and artefacts from the surface
scatter indicates the diversity of features within the villa complex. These
deposits will contain information about construction and layout of the villa
and its associated buildings, whilst the associated artefactual information
and any environmental deposits which survive at the base of the
archaeological sequence will add to our understanding of the lifestyle and
economy of the inhabitants and of the landscape in which they lived. Such
information will help elucidate the extent and nature of Roman rural
settlement across south east England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Powell, W R, The Victoria History of the County of Essex, (1963), 35
Wallace, C, Essex Archaeology and History, (1992), 91
Havis, R, (1993)
Ordnance Survey, 74-A90-330, (1950)
Ordnance Survey, TL 83 NE 08, (1976)

Source: Historic England

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