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Roman and earlier settlement at Honeyditches

A Scheduled Monument in Seaton, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.7133 / 50°42'48"N

Longitude: -3.081 / 3°4'51"W

OS Eastings: 323774.994026

OS Northings: 90969.649149

OS Grid: SY237909

Mapcode National: GBR PD.XMNZ

Mapcode Global: FRA 47F6.9HD

Entry Name: Roman and earlier settlement at Honeyditches

Scheduled Date: 30 January 1952

Last Amended: 18 March 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017819

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29642

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Seaton

Built-Up Area: Seaton

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Seaton St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Details

The monument includes a Roman settlement, traditionally interpreted as a
villa, of late second to early third century AD foundation which overlays the
site of a late pre-Roman Iron Age/Romano-British farmstead; the site appears
to have reverted to agricultural use before final abandonment in the late
Roman period. It is positioned on an east-facing slope on the western side of
the Axe Estuary overlooking the sea.
The monument survives as below ground remains and slight earthworks which have
been recorded by way of excavation and ground survey. A stone-built bath house
and other buildings which were terraced into the hillside characterise the
recognised second to third century AD focus of the complex which underwent
phases of rebuilding and addition before later reuse. Systematic excavations
carried out on the site have revealed scattered settlement with at least two
enclosures and a round house of Late Iron Age date which may have continued
little altered into the early Roman period. A change of function for the site
occurs in the second half of the second century or the first quarter of the
third century with the construction of a bath house and at least two other
stone buildings overlying the enclosures and occupation material of the
preceding settlement. These buildings were dispersed around what may have been
an open space or courtyard. The most westerly building has been shown by
excavation to have been about 45m long and lying on a north east-south west
orientation. It had chert stone walls at foundation level and a room was added
to its southern end after about 270AD. At least one room was furnished with a
tessellated pavement beneath which a well was discovered. About 17m further
north was another building with chert stone foundations which lay on an
approximate north west-south east alignment. The length of this building could
not be determined but it showed clear evidence of two main phases, the first
of which possessed a hypocaust; the second phase comprised a near complete
rebuild but without the provision of a hypocaust. About 75m east of this
building was a detached bath house which retained evidence for its furnace,
caldarium (hot room), tepidarium (warm room), and plunge bath. It was
constructed of roughly dressed local chert blocks with Beer stone quoins and
was substantially increased during a second phase of construction. A number of
slight platforms and mounds recognised in the area of the bath house and to
its west are thought to represent the remains of further buildings of the
Roman complex. Dating evidence from the bath house demonstrates that it went
out of use probably in the last decades of the third century after which it
was surrounded by an enclosure ditch during a phase in which it may have been
converted for agricultural purposes. Contemporary with these later changes
were a number of trackways which have been identified in excavation by their
parallel ditches and which extend northwards from a position to the north west
of the enclosure. A final abandonment of the site in the Roman period by at
least the middle of the fourth century is suggested by the absence of Roman
wares which are found at other sites which continued in occupation in the
area.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fencing, gates, and gate posts, although
the ground beneath all of these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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
important.

The later Roman settlement at Honeyditches, interpreted as a villa, is one of
only very few such Roman establishments to have been identified as far west as
Devon. Partial excavation and survey have demonstated that the stone-built
villa phase of the second to fourth centuries AD lay between two periods of
agricultural activity. The archaeological remains which have been shown to
survive will provide information relating to the function of the site, its
inhabitants, their lifestyle, and the landscape in which they lived.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Bidwell, P T, Seaton Parish Worksheet, (1984)
Holbrook, H, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in Trial Excavations at Honeyditches, (1987), 59-74
Holbrook, H, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in Trial Excavations at Honeyditches, (1987), 59-74
Miles, H, 'Britannia' in The Honeyditches Roman Villa, Seaton, Devon, (1977), 107-148
Miles, H, 'Britannia' in The Honeyditches Roman Villa, Seaton, Devon, (1977), 107-143
Miles, H, 'Britannia' in The Honeyditches Roman Villa, , Vol. 8, (1977), 107-148
Silvester, R J, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in Excavations at Honeyditches Roman Villa, Seaton, in 1978, , Vol. 39, (1981), 37-87
Wright, H B H, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in Discovery of the Ruins of a Roman Villa at Seaton, , Vol. 54, (1923), 66-68

Source: Historic England

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