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Callow Hill Roman villa

A Scheduled Monument in Wootton, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.872 / 51°52'19"N

Longitude: -1.4062 / 1°24'22"W

OS Eastings: 440980.290567

OS Northings: 219439.666095

OS Grid: SP409194

Mapcode National: GBR 6TQ.R8V

Mapcode Global: VHBZQ.K6ZQ

Entry Name: Callow Hill Roman villa

Scheduled Date: 17 April 1996

Last Amended: 2 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014750

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28126

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Wootton

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Stonesfield

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes an enclosed Roman villa situated on a broad ridge known
as Callow Hill. The villa enclosure lies 200m south of a stream which runs
east-west through a narrow valley known as Ditchley Dell and the Devil's Pool.
The villa enclosure lies less than c.100m west of a series of earlier Iron Age
linear earthworks which form part of the Grim's Dyke and which are the subject
of a separate scheduling.
The villa lies within a roughly rectangular enclosure measuring 138m from
north-south and 216m from east-west. Its boundary is formed by a ditch which
has become infilled due to cultivation. However, it is known from aerial
photographs and part excavation in the early 1950s to survive buried below the
modern ground level and measures c.5m wide and c.2m deep. The excavated
evidence included pottery sherds which date the enclosure's construction to
the last quarter of the first century AD and suggest that it continued in use
until the later half of the fourth century. Within the enclosure lies a small
corridor house villa similar in form to those of the so-called Ditchley type,
named after an example located less than 1km to the north west. However, the
enclosure at Callow Hill is considerably larger than that at Ditchley. The
building is aligned east-west with its entrance facing south. It lies close to
the north side of the enclosure, roughly halfway along it. Further features
within the enclosure include a well in front of the house, a number of
internal boundary walls which divide the enclosure and further traces of less
substantial buildings which are just visible on aerial photographs.
The location of the villa enclosure, adjacent to the extensive Iron Age
earthworks which form part of the Grim's Ditch system, indicates that the
villa may lie on the site of an earlier settlement. This interpretation
is supported by the finding of quantities of pre-Roman Iron Age pottery on the
site during part excavation.
Excluded from the scheduling are the post and wire boundary fences which cross
it, the surface of the B4437 road and the track north towards Kingswood Brake,
although the ground beneath all of these features, including the road, is
included in the scheduling.

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

The Callow Hill Roman villa is known from aerial photographs to survive well
below the level of recent agricultural disturbance. Part excavation has
demonstrated that archaeological and environmental evidence survive relating
to the construction of the villa, the economy of its inhabitants and the
landscape in which it was built.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Taylor, M V, 'A History of the County of Oxfordshire' in Romano-British Remains, Country Houses, (1970), 313-314
Taylor, M V, 'A History of the County of Oxfordshire' in Romano-British Remains, Country Houses, (1970), 313-4
Thomas, N, Hunter, A, 'Oxoniensia' in Notes and News 10, , Vol. XV 1950, (1952), 108
Thomas, N, Hunter, A, 'Oxoniensia' in Notes and News 10, , Vol. XV 1950, (1952), 108
Thomas, N, Hunter, A, 'Oxoniensia' in Notes and News 10, , Vol. XV 1950, (1952), 108
Scheduling proposal SM 28127, Jeffery, PP, Three earthworks E. of Callow Hill Roman Villa, (1995)
SM 21820, Jeffery, PP, Ditchley Park Roman Villa, (1994)
SMR numbered Callow Hill 1-3, Crawford, OGS., Air View of the Ditches Surrounding Callow Hill, (1920)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series
Source Date: 1970
SP 41 NW
Various SMR entries, C.A.O., North Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch, (1980)

Source: Historic England

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