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Castle Dikes defended Roman villa

A Scheduled Monument in North Stainley with Sleningford, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.1752 / 54°10'30"N

Longitude: -1.5551 / 1°33'18"W

OS Eastings: 429139.724108

OS Northings: 475582.109247

OS Grid: SE291755

Mapcode National: GBR KNL5.42

Mapcode Global: WHC7N.2BR1

Entry Name: Castle Dikes defended Roman villa

Scheduled Date: 1 February 1926

Last Amended: 8 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017467

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29528

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: North Stainley with Sleningford

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument includes the buried remains of a Roman villa and associated
buildings. These are located within a rectangular enclosure defined by
substantial earthen ramparts. The monument is located in the Vale of Mowbray
8km north of Ripon.
The ramparts form three sides of an irregular enclosure measuring 200m by
110m. The fourth (north) side may originally have been naturally protected by
marshy ground and the Light Water stream. The north east angle has been
disturbed by a modern road.
The ramparts consist of a pair of earth and stone built banks separated by a
deep ditch. The outer bank is up to 8m wide and stands 1m above the
surrounding land whilst the inner bank is up to 3.5m wide and 1.5m high. The
ditch is 11m wide and up to 2.9m deep. There are low sections of the banks at
the east and south sides which are the remains of entrances into the
The villa was discovered following partial excavation of the site in the late
19th century. These excavations revealed a dwelling house which showed
three periods of construction, a separate bath house lying in the north of the
enclosure and a further detached building which included two heated rooms
and a mosaic floor lying in the south west corner of the enclosure. Low
earthworks extending across the remainder of the interior of the enclosure
indicate the buried remains of further buildings. A further range of buildings
of uncertain function was uncovered north of the enclosure in 1929 during road
The villa was constructed in the early second century AD and the dwelling
house was later destroyed. It was subsequently rebuilt and the ramparts
constructed to form a defensive enclosure around the core of the complex. This
second dwelling house was then destroyed by fire. The house was rebuilt for a
second time, although it is unclear whether this final building was destroyed
or merely abandoned.
All gates and fences 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.
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

Although partly disturbed by excavations the defended villa complex at Castle
Dikes survives well. Significant evidence of the domestic arrangements of the
dwelling and the associated buildings within the ramparts will be preserved.
The construction of a defensive enclosure around the villa is unusual and
provides an insight into conditions in the area during the Roman period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Antiquity' in Antiquity, , Vol. Vol 33, (1959), 109
'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. VOL 38, (1953), 257-8
Luckis, W C, 'Archaeological Journal' in Archaeological Journal, , Vol. Vol 32, (1875), 134-154
Scott, E, 'Leicester Archaeological Monograph' in A gazeteer of Roman villas in Britain, , Vol. No. 1, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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