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Radwell Roman villa

A Scheduled Monument in Radwell, Hertfordshire

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Latitude: 52.0041 / 52°0'14"N

Longitude: -0.203 / 0°12'10"W

OS Eastings: 523446.674997

OS Northings: 235482.036497

OS Grid: TL234354

Mapcode National: GBR J6Q.9GZ

Mapcode Global: VHGNF.FWJK

Entry Name: Radwell Roman villa

Scheduled Date: 2 February 1976

Last Amended: 16 February 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016308

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27908

County: Hertfordshire

Civil Parish: Radwell

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Church of England Parish: Radwell

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes the buried remains of a Roman villa complex immediately
to the north of the River Ivel, some 200m south of Bury Farm. The serpentine
course of the river defines the south western extent of level ground
containing the remains of two domestic ranges, beyond which the land rises
abruptly by about 1.5m. From this point the field slopes gently up towards the
line of the A1(M) to the north east. The monument cannot be seen clearly on
the ground but from the air the position of walls, ditches and other features
frequently appear as cropmarks and soilmarks. These have been recorded by
aerial photography, providing a clear and detailed picture of the principal
villa structures, the associated components of the settlement, and a series of
additional features thought to represent the remains of a medieval field
system, together with the buried remains of a substantial bank and ditch
considered to date from the Iron Age.
A roughly square system of ditches encloses the villa complex on three sides,
the south western boundary being the River Ivel. The area thus enclosed is
some 200m long by 180m wide. These ditches continue beyond the main enclosure,
indicating further land divisions, but their full extent is not known. A
sample of these features is included in the scheduling.
The main villa building lies approximately 400m south of the present
farmhouse. It is visible in the aerial record as a rectangular structure 40m
in length and 20m wide, orientated north east to south west and situated in
the western corner of a ditched yard. The walls are defined by light parched
areas in the crop, indicating the survival of stone foundations. The core of
the building (perhaps the earliest part of the structure) is an oblong hall
subdivided into one large square room and four smaller chambers by four walls
spanning the width. This central range is flanked by narrow corridors
extending around the south western and north eastern ends and showing traces
of subdivisions. A further room is attached to the southern end of the south
eastern corridor, forming a very slight wing, and this may have been matched
at the northern end. Two small annexes extend from the north western corridor
on the opposite side.
Cropmark evidence indicates two oblong structures approximately 30m long by
12m wide lying parallel to each other, orientated at right angles to and
about 70m and 110m north east of the main villa building, one in the courtyard
and another in an adjoining sub-enclosure. It is thought that these were of
aisled construction, perhaps with internal partitions, and would have been
used as barns, stables or workshops.
A second villa building lies at right angles to the house, some 50m to the
south east, close to the river bank. This structure comprises a suite of six
rooms arranged in an L-shape. The five rooms forming the long arm of the `L'
measure some 40m by 10m. The sixth room has an apsidal end and is 10m long by
8m wide. It is thought that this building was a bath house serving the villa
and that the remains of a small structure attached to the south western side
may represent a furnace room. The suite's location, very close to the river,
would have been chosen to take advantage of the water supply and ease of
Cropmark evidence for a third, separate rectilinear structure has been noted
about 10m south east of the bath suite. The full extent of this building is
not known, but its proximity to the river suggests a function connected with
water management or water-related activities such as tanning or dyeing. Finds
recovered from the plough soil in the area of the main villa complex include
shards of Romano-British pottery and imported samian ware (a glossy red ware)
together with tesserae (composite floor tiles), roof and flue tiles. Bronze
coins of the House of Constantine, Claudius II (Gothicus) and Allectus
discovered on the site indicate occupation during the 3rd and 4th centuries.
Within the main villa complex there is cropmark evidence of a later enclosure
orientated NNE to SSW and measuring approximately 90m by 70m. The defining
ditches of this enclosure overlie the south eastern corner of the southern
aisled building and the apsidal room of the bath suite. Traces of further
ditches appear in the yard and in the area to the north west of the main
complex. All these are considered to date from the post-Roman period and to be
part of a medieval field system which may be associated with the remains of a
ditch-flanked trackway about 280m north east of the main villa building. The
buried remains of a broad, curving bank and ditch runs from the field boundary
ESE of Bury Farm, some 270m north east of the villa, whose outer land
boundaries it crosses. This bank turns south towards the river and peters out
about 200m north of Norton Mill. It is thought that this feature represents an
Iron Age boundary, suggesting that the villa could have succeeded a pre-Roman
farmstead or settlement, the remains of which may be represented by cropmark
features such as gullies, pits and ditches in the eastern part of the main
enclosure. A sample of this bank is included in the scheduling.
The footbridge supports on the northern bank of the River Ivel are excluded
from the scheduling, as are all made surfaces, fences, fenceposts and sign
boards, although the ground beneath them is included.

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

Although Radwell Roman villa has been degraded by ploughing, substantial
remains survive buried beneath the present ground surface, including the
foundations of the main villa building, a bath house suite, ancillary
structures and boundary ditches. These features will contain valuable
archaeological deposits indicating the phases and methods of construction,
illustrating the duration of the settlement and the lifestyle and occupations
of the villa's inhabitants. Parts of the monument are located close to the
River Ivel and are subject to waterlogging. Buried features here will
preserve important environmental evidence relating to the villa's economy, the
diet of the inhabitants, and the nature of the landscape in which the monument
was set.
The relationship between the pre- and post-Roman features on the site suggests
a continuance of use from the Iron Age, and the fills of these ditched
features may contain archaeological deposits enabling a closer examination of
the means by which the native settlements of the Iron Age evolved into the
villa estates of the Roman period.
Radwell Roman villa lies some 500m west of Ermine Street and some 4km north of
the small Roman town at Baldock and is a valuable example for the study of
settlement patterns in Hertfordshire during the Roman period.

Source: Historic England


oblique monochrome photograph, St Joseph, J K, BFD25,
oblique monochrome photograph, St Joseph, J K, BFD28,
plot produced from aerial photographs, National Mapping Programme, Hertfordshire overlay, (1991)
RCHM, NMP overlay plot, (1991)
Sherlock, D, Old County Scheduling document, text

Source: Historic England

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