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Islip Roman villa, 300m east of Hillside Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Islip, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.817 / 51°49'1"N

Longitude: -1.2282 / 1°13'41"W

OS Eastings: 453295.459901

OS Northings: 213436.487092

OS Grid: SP532134

Mapcode National: GBR 8YD.28Z

Mapcode Global: VHCXG.NLKF

Entry Name: Islip Roman villa, 300m east of Hillside Farm

Scheduled Date: 31 October 1973

Last Amended: 19 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015161

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28136

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Islip

Built-Up Area: Islip

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Islip

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a Roman villa of winged corridor type situated within
its own enclosure, beyond which lies a larger outer enclosure. The villa faces
south on a hillslope situated south east of the confluence of the Rivers Ray
and Cherwell.
It lies 900m north west of the Woodeaton Romano-Celtic temple. Part excation
in 1962 provided dating evidence for the villa, covering the period from the
late 1st century to the early 2nd century AD. Field walking has provided much
pottery of later 3rd and 4th century date from the inner enclosure.
The villa is aligned roughly east-west and occupies the north end of its
surrounding enclosure. Aerial photographs show that it measures 44m along its
main axis and has wings which project 14.5m to the south. There were 20
rooms in the building which range in size from 3m by 2.3m to 11.5m by 5.3m.
The largest room lies in the west corner but it is possible that this was
actually two rooms cut by a partition wall which was later removed. At the
front (south) of the villa is a 3m wide verandah or portico.
At the rear of the villa is an unusual extension. This protrudes through the
inner enclosure and gives direct access to the interior of the outer
enclosure. It measures 8.4m north-south and 5.3m wide. It takes the form of
a single room which is separated from the villa by a 2.3m wide corridor.
Further extensions into the outer enclosure at this point suggest that the
structure included further rooms which are not clearly understood from the
aerial photographs alone.
The inner enclosure is aligned almost north-south and measures 80m from east-
west and about 150m north-south. It has a stone boundary wall, only the buried
foundations of which now survive. These are about 2.5m thick at the widest
point, and form the base of what would have been a very substantial wall. It
is likely that a gateway would have been present on the south side. Within the
enclosure, at least two circular structures with diameters of 9m amd 18m lie
roughly south of the villa wings. These may have been buildings or perhaps
even pond features within an extensive garden. Evidence of further
outbuildings is also visible.
The outer enclosure surrounds the inner one but is offset to the east. It
measures about 210m from east-west and 260m from north-south. Within it, south
of the entrance to the inner enclosure and aparently flanking it, are a pair
of roughly circular features, similar to those within the inner enclosure but
measuring up to 30m in diameter. A further small circular feature, about 10m
in diameter, lies just inside the entrance. The fact that the boundary cuts in
to meet that of the inner enclosure at the south west suggests that a road
already existed on the line now followed by the B 4027. The east side of the
enclosure is formed by a track which is ditched on both sides and has access
to the enclosure at its extreme north and south ends. This track continues
north of the complex and forms part of a field system associated with the
villa, parts of which can be seen on some aerial photographs. These elements
beyond the outer villa enclosure are not included in the scheduling.
Excluded from the scheduling are all post and wire fences across the monument,
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 found throughout lowland Britain and between 400 and 1000
examples have been recorded in England. Of these less than 10 are examples of
`major' villas. These were the largest, most substantial and opulent type of
villa which were built and used by a small but extremely wealthy section of
Romano-British society. 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. All major villas will be identified as nationally important.

The Islip Roman villa is unusual in having had two enclosures rather than
one. Despite having been reduced by cultivation over the years, it is known
from part excavation and aerial photographs to include extensive remains
including a number of buildings, surfaces and both enclosure boundaries which
will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its
construction and use and the landscape in which it was built.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cheetham, CJ, Islip Roman Villa Site, (1995)
Cheetham, CJ, Islip Roman Villa Site, (1995)
Wilson, D R, 'Journal Of Roman Studies' in Roman Britain In 1962, , Vol. LIII, (1963), 125
List of photos appended to hard copy, R.C.H.M.(E), National Monuments Record Centre - Air Photo Library, (1995)
List of photos appended to hard copy, R.C.H.M.(E), National Monuments Record Centre - Air Photo Library, (1995)
SP 51 SW PRN 1330, C.A.O., Villa, (1978)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series
Source Date: 1980
SP 51 SW

Source: Historic England

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