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Roman villa and associated bath house 450m north west of Lower Field Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Asthall, Oxfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.7987 / 51°47'55"N

Longitude: -1.5628 / 1°33'45"W

OS Eastings: 430247.584754

OS Northings: 211209.450653

OS Grid: SP302112

Mapcode National: GBR 5T5.1QZ

Mapcode Global: VHC00.V1PX

Entry Name: Roman villa and associated bath house 450m north west of Lower Field Farm

Scheduled Date: 14 January 1977

Last Amended: 19 September 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015160

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28135

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Asthall

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Asthall with Swinbrook and Widford

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

Details

The monument includes the site of a Roman villa, its enclosure, a stone built
bath house and track situated on the north side of the River Windrush, 450m
north west of Lower Field Farm. It lies 600m south of the Roman road known as
Akeman Street from which the track runs towards the monument.
Little is known of the plan of the main villa which lies at the south west end
of the enclosure, but the enclosure itself can be roughly plotted from aerial
photographs and records of earthworks visible in 1917. The southern side of
the enclosure lies along a stream from which water was obtained for the bath
house. The enclosure is roughly rectangular and encloses an area roughly 350m
from south west-north east by about 210m from north west-south east. The exact
position of its north east corner is not known and may lie outside the area of
the scheduling.
The monument's best recorded component is the bath house, which lies roughly
midway along the enclosure's southern side. It survives as stone foundations
and lower wall courses, buried below the modern ground level. Its plan is
clearly known from aerial photographs and records of two part excavations. The
building lies immediately north of a former channel of the River Windrush and
it originally consisted of a rectangular structure about 8m wide from east-
west and 15m long from north-south. This had well built walls, particularly at
the south end where it may have supported an upper storey.
From excavations it is known that the building had at least two distinct
phases of use. In the first phase the building served as a bath house. This
consisted of several rooms with under floor (hypocaust) heating and changing
rooms, further hot and cold rooms, a fuel store and other rooms. In a second
phase the bath house was converted to a residence of 16 rooms of various
sizes. The baths were filled in and levelled to form floors. The final
building, including extensions, measured 24.4m from north-south and 15.2m
wide.
The track runs south east at right angles from the Roman Akeman Street and
into the north west side of the enclosure where it ends at the likely site of
the main villa building. Where visible on aerial photographs it measures about
20m wide including a pair of parallel flanking ditches about 3m wide.
Excluded from the scheduling are all post and wire boundary fences which cross
or surround the monument, although the ground beneath them is included in the
scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT
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
important.

Despite having been partly reduced by cultivation, the villa, its enclosure,
the track and bath house north west of Lower Field Farm represent an unusual
survival, and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating
to their construction and use and the landscape in which they were built. The
conversion of the bath house to a dwelling is of particular interest. Taken as
a group the monuments will provide information on the changing fortunes of an
agricultural estate during the Roman period.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Harden, D B, 'A History Of The County Of Oxfordshire' in Romano-British Remains, (1939), 319-321
Harden, D B, 'A History Of The County Of Oxfordshire' in Romano-British Remains, (1939), 320
Other
PRN 12241, C.A.O., Roman Track, (1974)
PRN 1562, C.A.O., Worsham Roman Villa, (1974)
SP 31 SW - Cropmark layer, C.A.O., Sites and Monuments Record Cover Map - Cropmarks, (1995)
SP 31 SW - PRN layer, C.A.O., Sites and Monuments Record Cover Map - PRN's, (1995)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
SP 31 SW
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
SP 31 SW

Source: Historic England

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