Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Roman villa 500m north east of Harlowbury

A Scheduled Monument in Old Harlow, Essex

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 51.792 / 51°47'31"N

Longitude: 0.1459 / 0°8'45"E

OS Eastings: 548093.480504

OS Northings: 212545.773441

OS Grid: TL480125

Mapcode National: GBR LDC.MQ2

Mapcode Global: VHHM7.H703

Entry Name: Roman villa 500m north east of Harlowbury

Scheduled Date: 4 October 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014738

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24860

County: Essex

Electoral Ward/Division: Old Harlow

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Harlow St Mary and St Hugh with St John the Baptist

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a Roman villa complex situated towards the crest of a
gentle north facing slope in an area of undulating chalky boulder clay hills
and is known through aerial photographs and through analysis of building
debris and pottery recovered from the ploughsoil. The villa has no upstanding
remains above ground but buried features include wall foundations, pits,
ditches and occupation deposits.

At the centre of the villa complex are the buried masonry remains of a near
square building. This lies within a large rectangular enclosure aligned
north east by south west. The enclosed area, surounded by a boundary ditch,
contains at least one other building.

The location and ground plan of the central building has been identified from
crop marks visible on aerial photographs. It lies towards the centre of a
ditched enclosure and measures approximately 40m by 40m. Lying c.40m west of
the central buiding is a second building. This is likely to be an agricultural
outbuilding and measures approximately 50m north east-south west by c.10m
north west-south east. Traces of the ditch which forms a rectangular enclosure
around the core buildings of the villa are visible as cropmarks and soilmarks
on aerial photographs.

Roman masonry structures were first identified at the site in 1819 by John
Barnard. In 1831, during the excavation of a ditch, labourers uncovered
further remains which included flint and brick walls, evidently of Roman date.
A fieldwalking survey undertaken in 1990 found a high concentration of Roman
tile coinciding with the area identified from the aerial photographs as the
location of the main domestic building and outbuilding. A general spread of
Roman tile was found across an area of approximately 200m east-west by 140m
north-south. A substantial quantity of Roman pottery was also found across the
whole of the site. A column fragment of worked stone was also recovered. The
full height of the column is believed to have been between 4m and 5m and
suggests that the villa was of high status and elaboratly decorated.
Metalwork of Iron Age and Roman date has been found on the site. Some of this
material indicates the presence of an Iron Age predecessor to the villa.

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 500m north east of Harlowbury survives well below the
ploughsoil. The monument has suffered minimal disturbance with the majority of
archaeological information coming from non-destructive methods of
investigation. The fieldwalking survey and collection of artefacts indicate
that the villa has particularly rich buildings and will provide important
information for understanding the economy and development of the social
structure of Romano-British society in this region. Evidence of Iron Age
settlement prior to the Roman occupation will also help to elucidate the
Romanisation and development of rural Essex from the Iron Age and into the
Roman period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bartlett, R W, The Archaeology of Gilden Way: An Assessment of the Field Walking, (1991)
Clouston, R P S, Gilden Way, Harlow, Archaeological Assessment, (1991)
Powell, W R, The Victoria History of the County of Essex, (1963), 141
Bartlett, R W, (1993)
O.S. Archive, Film 71-173 Frames 083 & 084 4/5/1971, (1971)

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.