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Roman villa at Kirk Sink

A Scheduled Monument in Gargrave, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.9777 / 53°58'39"N

Longitude: -2.0935 / 2°5'36"W

OS Eastings: 393963.222729

OS Northings: 453522.022005

OS Grid: SD939535

Mapcode National: GBR FQTF.KV

Mapcode Global: WHB76.T88Y

Entry Name: Roman villa at Kirk Sink

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1937

Last Amended: 10 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012616

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24545

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Gargrave

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Gargrave St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


The Roman villa is situated in meadows beside the River Aire, on the site
of a former glacial lake which left a large flat expanse of fertile soil. The
earthworks are very low and therefore it is difficult to detect the site
features at ground level. A double ditch 0.2m deep runs across the field,
parallel to the lane which runs from Gargrave to the modern house at Kirk
Sink. Two other ditches run at right angles from this to the lane.

The monument is the most westerly of the group of villa sites centred on
the Vale of York. It was partially excavated in 1968-1974 by Brian Hartley.
The excavations revealed that the villa was surrounded by two ditches, an
outer ditch measuring 225m by 100m and an inner ditch measuring 100m by 60m.
The earliest buildings on the site were a pair of circular timber and turf
built structures, one of which survived in use into the villa period. The
earliest Romanized building on the site was a second century corridor type
house. This measured 30m by 13m wide with a front corridor and porch on the
central entrance between slightly projecting wings. It included a large
central room 7m square with mosaic floors. This house went out of use at the
end of the third century or the beginning of the fourth and was then

Alongside the house and roughly contemporary with it was the bath house.
This included a cold room with an apsidal plunge bath and drains, with water
supplied using wooden pipes with iron collars. Next to it were two heated
rooms, one of which included a rectangular recess for a hot water bath.
During the early third century two cottage-like houses were built west and
south west of the orginal house. Both were 24m long and 9m wide, divided into
four rooms, two large, two small and an access corridor. Each house had at
least one mosaic floor. Half way between the houses was a rectangular building
measuring 10.5m by 9m which again had a mosaic floor. This was at some point
linked to the north building by a covered walk. The function of these
buildings remains uncertain. The modern field walls are excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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

Although disturbed by excavation, much of the monument survives below
ground and unexcavated. It remains the most westerly of the group of villas
centred on the Vale of York. Kirk Sink is at present the only site to have
evidence of circular timber and turf built houses, one of which survived in
use into the villa period. It also includes a water supply using wooden pipes
with iron collars, a system which has only been recognised at this site.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hartley, B, Leon Fitts, R, The Brigantes, (1988), 71-85
Allen, T, 'History of Yorkshire' in , , Vol. 6, (1828), 46
Hartley, B, 'The History of Flasby' in The Ecclesiastical Parish of Gargrave, , Vol. 1, (1985), 86
Hartley, B, 'History of Flasby' in Kirk Sink, , Vol. 1, (1985), 90
Whittaker, S, 'History of Craven' in History of Craven, (), 78

Source: Historic England

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