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Roman villa 450m west of Bury Farm

A Scheduled Monument in High Easter, Essex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8034 / 51°48'12"N

Longitude: 0.3928 / 0°23'34"E

OS Eastings: 565074.876944

OS Northings: 214346.396317

OS Grid: TL650143

Mapcode National: GBR NH4.XT5

Mapcode Global: VHJJM.RXJX

Entry Name: Roman villa 450m west of Bury Farm

Scheduled Date: 18 November 1965

Last Amended: 30 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011808

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24873

County: Essex

Civil Parish: High Easter

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Pleshey Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

Details

The monument includes the remains of a Roman villa situated on a very gentle
south east facing slope.
The villa comprises a complex of buried features and deposits which include
the remains of at least one substantial masonry building and a columbarium (a
brick lined vault with shelves and niches for jars and bottles containing
cremation burials).
The villa was originally recognised in the 18th century when a piece of mosaic
pavement was found in 1749-50. The columbarium was discovered c.1780 when
burials and coins were recovered. In 1947, after ploughing, it was noticed
that there were gravel lines on the ground surface indicating the locations of
wall foundations. These formed the outline of an E-plan building at the north
edge of the field. The area of the main concentration of Roman building
material covers an area of c.100m square, although occasional fragments of
tile have been found across the whole field. Other surface finds have included
part of a bronze ewer, bronze ornaments, as well as fragments of pottery and
glass vessels.

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 Roman villa 450m west of Bury Farm survives well below the ploughsoil;
surprisingly (for a site known for nearly 250 years) little disturbance of the
monument has taken place.
The presence of the columbarium is of particular interest as it is a rare
feature to find in this context. The villa complex deposits will contain
information about the 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 sequence will add to our
understanding of the life-style and economy of the inhabitants and the
landscape in which they lived.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County, (1963), 166-7
Green, H J M, AM 7, (1949)
Other
Chant, K, AM107, (1983)
Essex Sites and Monuments Record PRN 1170, (1985)
Essex Sites and Monuments Record PRN 5992, (1985)
Rodwell, W, (1969)

Source: Historic England

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