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Roman settlement and drove at Fen Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Horbling, Lincolnshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.8957 / 52°53'44"N

Longitude: -0.2689 / 0°16'8"W

OS Eastings: 516547.551853

OS Northings: 334537.068658

OS Grid: TF165345

Mapcode National: GBR GTG.JTM

Mapcode Global: WHHLZ.VG3Z

Entry Name: Roman settlement and drove at Fen Farm

Scheduled Date: 8 February 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013482

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20812

County: Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Horbling

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Horbling St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln

Details

The monument includes the site of a Roman settlement, located on a wide roddon
(extinct watercourse) in the silt fen and comprising five or more enclosed
farmsteads, with their associated yards and paddocks, clustered around a drove
junction. The greater part of the settlement survives under pasture, where the
ditches on either side of the droves, and the ditches and platforms which
define the yards, buildings, paddocks and fields of each farmstead, are
visible as low earthworks. In the north eastern and extreme southern parts of
the monument which are under cultivation, the pattern of the underlying
ditches is traceable in lines of darker ploughsoil.

The principal drove, which is the focus of the settlement, follows a slightly
wandering diagonal course north west - south east across the site, branching
at the junction towards the southern end. It has an overall width of between
16m and 25m, including the ditches which border it, which have become largely
infilled but are marked by linear hollows approximately 5m wide and 0.4m deep
in the ground surface. Another, much shorter, ditched track of similar width
runs approximately parallel to it on the west side, following a zigzag course
along the boundaries of fields and enclosures which probably predate it. On
either side of the main drove, and roughly aligned with it, are the
rectilinear enclosures of the farmsteads and their adjoining fields, defined
by ditches which remain open to a width of approximately 4m and a depth of up
to 0.5m. The larger enclosures of the farmyards measure up to 80m by 70m,
and contained within, or immediately adjoining them are groups of smaller
rectangular enclosures with internal dimensions of between 8m by 9m and 12m by
15m. The interior of many of the smaller enclosures is slightly raised,
forming natural or artificial platforms which are considered to be the sites
of buildings. Other associated enclosures, including fields and paddocks, are
of varying size and proportion.

The modern farm building south of Fen Farm, the modern field boundary fences,
hedges, gates and supports for electric fencing within the pasture fields are
all excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features
is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

During the Roman period, particularly during the second century AD, the
Fenland silts around the Wash and areas on and close to the margins of the
peat fens were extensively and often densely occupied and farmed. Rural
settlements were small, comprising individual farmsteads or, more often,
groups of several farmsteads organised in small villages which, with their
associated field systems, were aligned along droves. Droves also served to
link loose clusters of neighbouring settlements in a branching and
intersecting network which might extend over several kilometres. The pattern
of settlement was determined chiefly by the requirements of stock management
and animal husbandry, exploiting pastures on the silts and higher ground, and
the summer grazing and winter fodder provided by the adjacent freshwater fens.
Although arable agriculture was almost certainly practised also, there was an
element of self sufficiency in craft production and in the exploitation of
local resources. Each farmstead was normally contained within a rectangular or
sub-rectangular enclosure or block of enclosures, demarcated by substantial
ditches and including low, thatched buildings of clay and wattle and daub on a
light timber frame, with working areas such as farmyard, stockyard, rickyards
and gardens alongside. Often the buildings were sited on natural hummocks or
on artificially raised platforms. The earliest of such settlements, which are
dated to the later first century AD, are generally very small and differ
little in general appearance from certain settlements of the preceding Iron
Age, although Iron Age settlements in the Fenland region are not so numerous
or widespread. During the second century, when small and large-scale
engineering projects, including the construction of roads and canals, were
carried out widely in the Fens, the size and complexity of the settlements
tended to increase and the layout of droves and fields to become more regular.
Many were, however, abandoned in the third century AD because of increasing
problems of flooding and drainage. Numerous Roman settlements of this type,
with their associated field systems, have been recorded in the Fens,
particularly through air photography, and they serve to illustrate both the
nature of small-scale farming during the period of the Roman occupation and
the ways in which a local population adapted to and exploited a particular
environment. Many of the sites have, however, been reduced by medieval and
later agriculture, and very few remain with upstanding earthworks, with a
varied range of identifiable features and/or evidence for the survival of
environmental remains. Consequently, all sites which survive as earthworks or
which have a varied range of identifiable features are considered to be of
national importance.

The Roman settlement site at Fen Farm is one of the best preserved and most
complete of those which survive as earthworks. The relatively small areas in
the north eastern and southern parts of the monument which have been ploughed
also retain archaeological deposits and features of significance to the
settlement site as a whole. The monument will retain a wide range of
archaeological information concerning the organisation, development and
duration of the settlement, and evidence for domestic life, farming practices
and the local environment will be preserved in deposits on and beneath the
building platforms, in the infill of the ditches and in the soils within the
enclosures. The site has additional interest as part of an extensive
landscape of settlements, droves and field systems which has been recorded by
means of air photography.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
Cambridge University Collection AKN 54,
Cambridge University Collection AKN 55,
Dossier for H B M C, Fenland Evaluation Project: Lincolnshire, (1990)
Wesley, B, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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