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Roman villa 200m east of Howletts

A Scheduled Monument in Chignall, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7717 / 51°46'18"N

Longitude: 0.4085 / 0°24'30"E

OS Eastings: 566274.680181

OS Northings: 210856.094076

OS Grid: TL662108

Mapcode National: GBR NHK.VGS

Mapcode Global: VHJJV.1Q9P

Entry Name: Roman villa 200m east of Howletts

Scheduled Date: 4 June 1976

Last Amended: 6 September 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011809

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24874

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Chignall

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Chignal Smealey St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a Roman villa situated on a south west facing, gentle
slope overlooking the River Can.

The villa was recognised in 1974 during crop spraying. Visible as a cropmark,
the layout of the building has been plotted from aerial photographs.
Concentrations of Roman material in the ploughsoil are also visible at ground
level. These indicate the locations of buried archaeological deposits although
there are no visible upstanding features. The buried features include the
foundations of buildings, pits and ditches.

The main villa building surrounds a rectangular internal courtyard c.33m
north-south by 28m east-west. Around this is a corridor with rooms laid out on
three sides, to the north, east and west. The total area of the known building
foundations measures c.47m by 57m. This building is situated within a large
ditched polygonal enclosure which is believed to have covered an area of
c.4.2ha. To the east of the villa building the boundary comprises six separate
but parallel ditches covering a width of c.30m, although to the north and west
the cropmarks may indicate fewer ditches.

Since its discovery the area of the monument has been field walked. This has
located quantities of Roman building material and pottery sherds. From 1977 to
1984 excavations were undertaken in advance of mineral extraction to the south
and south west of the main building within the southern part of the enclosure
and to the south of it. These have revealed material and features from the
Mesolithic through to the medieval period. The earliest features associated
with and inside the enclosure are of first century date AD with evidence of
the occupation until the fourth century AD. Timber-posted granaries and other
associated agricultural buildings have been identified in the southern part of
the enclosure and further similar buildings are believed to survive in the
area around the main building.

Excluded from the scheduling is the trackway which runs east-west across the
north of the monument, 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 200m east of Howletts survives well below the ploughsoil as
has been confirmed by the excavation of archaeological deposits to the south
of the scheduling. It is the only Roman villa in Essex for which a courtyard
layout of the main dwelling building is known. The undisturbed deposits of the
villa building, the ditches and other buried features contain information
about the construction and layout of the villa and its associated buildings
and agricultural practices. Artefacts and deposits containing environmental
evidence will add to our understanding of the lifestyle and economy of the
inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Priddy, D, Buckley, D G, An Assessment of Excavated Enclosures in Essex, (1987), 70-1
Clarke, C P, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Excavations in Essex, , Vol. Vol 11, (1979), 101
Clarke, P, Couchman, C, Eddy, M, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Excavations in Essex, , Vol. Vol 10, (1978), 241
Clarke, C P, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Excavations in Essex, , Vol. Vol 13, (1981), 50
Clarke, C P, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Excavations in Essex, , Vol. Vol 14, (1982), 135
Cambridge University Collection, BVA 39, 40, (1975)
Cambridge University Collection, BXB 51, (1976)
ECC, Essex Sites and Monuments Record PRN 1040, (1974)

Source: Historic England

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