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Manduessedum Roman villa and settlement with associated industrial complex

A Scheduled Monument in Witherley, Leicestershire

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Latitude: 52.5672 / 52°34'1"N

Longitude: -1.5199 / 1°31'11"W

OS Eastings: 432636.244914

OS Northings: 296706.885562

OS Grid: SP326967

Mapcode National: GBR 6K8.0JN

Mapcode Global: WHCHD.MQFR

Entry Name: Manduessedum Roman villa and settlement with associated industrial complex

Scheduled Date: 17 February 1927

Last Amended: 28 August 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017585

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30024

County: Leicestershire

Civil Parish: Witherley

Built-Up Area: Witherley

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Mancetter St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Coventry


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a Roman villa,
settlement and industrial complex at Manduessedum. The monument is located in
the Anker Valley, between Mancetter and Witherley, and lies along the route of
Watling Street. The monument is partly sited in the flood plain of the River
Anker in an area of river alluviums and glaciated soil with underlying Keuper

Mancetter was an important location during the Roman period. A fort lies
across the River Anker to the west, whilst the Roman road known as Watling
Street traverses the modern village. Manduessedum was a small, partly
defended, town lying along the route of Watling Street, and probably acted as
a production and marketing focus for the region's pottery industry, which is
known to have had a major centre to the south east of the settlement. Road and
river transport provided communication between the settlement, the industry
and the fort, and much of Roman Britain. Products manufactured in the
potteries reaches as far away as North Wales and the Antonine Wall.

The remains of the defended settlement known as the `Burgus', consist of an
embanked rectangular enclosure, and an associated ribbon development lying
along both sides of Watling Street. The earthworks consist of two large
ditches and a bank, measuring approximately 220m by 160m, aligned north west
to south east along the route of Watling Street which passes through its
centre, and are of the late third century. Limited excavation has suggested
that the embankment was preceded by first century defences and has shown that
occupation in the area ranged from the first to the fourth century. In the
gardens of the modern houses on the north side of Watling Street, which are
not included in the scheduling, excavation revealed additional structures
believed to be part of the ribbon settlement including evidence of shops,
houses, and a medical surgery.

To the north west of the `Burgus' are the remains of a Roman villa, which
occupy the northern portion of the field lying adjacent to Watling Street.
The site was identified through geophysical survey and part excavation by the
Atherstone Archaeological and Historical Society. This revealed a complex of
rectangular buildings, including a room with an apsidal end, painted wall
plaster in red, green and yellow, and a hypocaust heating system lying
approximately 17m south of Watling Street. Pottery found during field walking
and excavation suggest that the villa was occupied during the second and
third centuries. Traces of features associated with pottery from the first
century were also identified. Five human skeletons of Anglo-Saxon date were
cut into the Roman villa.

In addition to the main villa complex, geophysical survey has revealed further
buildings, most likely shops and dwellings facing onto Watling Street.

To the south of the `Burgus' are the buried remains of a Roman industrial
complex, which forms part of the Mancetter-Hartshill pottery industry. This
field has been partly excavated and over 70 kilns, with associated structures
and wells, and large amounts of pottery were revealed. The industry operated
from the mid-second century, and from the mid-third century into the fourth
century it primarily produced mortaria - heavy mixing bowls studded on the
inner surface with grit used for grinding foodstuffs, whilst evidence of glass
production has also been recorded.

To the south west of the `Burgus' and the south east of the villa between
Watling Street and the River Anker are further archaeological remains which
are believed to be associated with the Roman occupation of the area. These
consist of cropmarks identified by aerial photography, which include several
linear features, thought to be enclosures, and the remains of a Roman or
prehistoric field system.

A small three-sided enclosure which measures approximately 25m by 40m is sited
within 5m of the River Anker. This feature, partly excavated by K Scott in
1994, revealed the remains of a settlement, including a timber lined well and
other wooden structures, believed to be associated with a ferry crossing or
port on the River Anker providing communication with the Roman fort at
Mancetter which is located 100m to the west of the river. The Roman fort is
the subject of a separate scheduling.

Aerial photography has demonstrated further cropmark evidence, to the east and
west of the `Burgus', including two Roman roads running south from Watling
Street. Geophysical survey has confirmed the survival of the road to the west
of the `Burgus'.

Archaeological excavations in 1928, adjacent to the embankment of the
`Burgus', found evidence of a large timber structure sited along the edge of
Watling Street which appears to pre date the embankment of the settlement.
Further excavations in this field also discovered two Roman cremation burials.
These cremations may well be part of a cemetery marking the eastern extent of
the settlement.

The Bull Inn public house, all houses, modern fences, signs, and the surfaces
of car parking, roads and tracks are excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath them is included. The house, gardens and access road of
Mancetter House, located close to the south west angle of the `Burgus', and
the electricity sub station and gas pipe main immediately south of Watling
Street are not included in the scheduling.

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

Manduessedum is particularly important because of the survival of a large
number of Roman features within the landscape. These include a villa, a
defended settlement, an industrial complex, a number of Roman roads, a port or
ferry settlement, early field systems and human burials. It is unusual in that
the majority of the settlement remains and landscape features have survived
from the Roman period without suffering large scale disruption by later
development. In addition archaeological fieldwork indicates that each of the
settlement and industrial areas had a long period of development. As a result
the Roman landscape at Mancetter will provide insights into some of the
more scarce, and less well recognised, elements of the Roman occupation of

It will also afford a long term view of the processes of social and economic
development throughout the whole of the Roman period. The settlement will
preserve evidence of the daily lives of the craftsmen and townspeople, and of
their relationships with those who occupied the villa and the fort.

The survival of the villa will afford an opportunity to examine the
relationship between agricultural production, industry and the market
functions of the town, and provide evidence about the lifestyles of people of
a higher status.

The survival of many stamped pieces of pottery from the industrial complex has
allowed the identification of individual potters, and has provided an insight
into the activities of craftsmen, as well as the distribution mechanisms of
the industry. The survival of the kilns, drying sheds, other timber structures
and wells and water channels used in processing, as well as large quantities
of pottery provide an important insight into a specialised regional industry
organised on a large scale.

The monument therefore affords an opportunity to study both the relationships
between settlement, agriculture, industry and communications, and the
development of these relationships throughout the Roman and immediate post-
Roman period. Of particular interest is the survival of a broad range of
settlement types, which will provide information about social relationships
between people of different status and occupation. In addition, part
excavation has shown that both structural and organic deposits survive which
will include contemporary information about the environment, and technological
and economic development within the region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burnham, B, Wacher, J, The 'Small Towns' of Roman Britain, (1990)
Hartley, K R, 'WMANS' in WMANS, , Vol. 19, (1976), 49
Hartley, K R, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. Vols 1 3, (1972), 319
O'Neil, B H S, 'TBAS' in Excavation Report, , Vol. 53, (1928), 173-195
Scott, K, 'TBAS' in , , Vol. 91, (1981), 7 to 23
Johnson, A.E., Land at Mancetter, Warwickshire., 1996, unpublished geophysical survey report
Roman Kiln, Hartley, K R, 7, (1964)
Roman Kiln, Hartley, K R, 7, (1965)
Roman Kiln, Hemsley, R, 77, (1959)
Wilson, M., Geophysical Survey illustrations, 1997, survey results, unpub.
Wilson, M., Request For Scheduling, 1997, site notes and survey results, unpub.

Source: Historic England

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