Ancient Monuments

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Roman villa 630m south west of Starveall Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Bishopstone, Swindon

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Latitude: 51.5323 / 51°31'56"N

Longitude: -1.6274 / 1°37'38"W

OS Eastings: 425943.517579

OS Northings: 181556.168839

OS Grid: SU259815

Mapcode National: GBR 5X5.WXZ

Mapcode Global: VHC14.RR16

Entry Name: Roman villa 630m south west of Starveall Farm

Scheduled Date: 24 May 1956

Last Amended: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016309

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28957

County: Swindon

Civil Parish: Bishopstone

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Bishopstone with Hinton Parva

Church of England Diocese: Bristol


The monument, which lies in two areas, includes the site of a Roman villa
located 630m south west of Starveall Farm, situated high on the North
Wiltshire chalkland just above the Ridgeway. The site occupies a north facing
slope with extensive views across the Ridgeway and the Upper Thames Valley.
Aerial photography in 1969 revealed a number of ditched enclosures surrounding
an area in which a tesselated pavement had come to light in 1938. Subsequent
geophysical survey and small scale excavation revealed a range of rooms and
corridors, including the remains of a hypocaust heating system. The walls are
up to 1m thick and constructed from mortared chalk block. Building debris
included much tile and wall plaster, and a small portion of a mosaic floor was
located. To the north west a rectangular building found by geophysical survey
was confirmed by small scale excavation, having a construction of mortared
chalk and flint block. The pattern of ditches visible from the air indicates
that the villa enclosure straddles the farm track and encloses a total area of
A linear feature, shown on aerial photographs to extend eastwards from the
north eastern corner of the monument is part of a field system and is not
included in the scheduling.
All fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath
these features 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

The Roman villa 630m south west of Starveall Farm has been shown by small
scale excavation to survive well and contain archaeological and environmental
deposits relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Phillips, B, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Starveall Farm, Romano-British Villa, , Vol. 74/75, (1981), 40-55

Source: Historic England

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