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Fawler Roman villa

A Scheduled Monument in Fawler, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.8492 / 51°50'57"N

Longitude: -1.4615 / 1°27'41"W

OS Eastings: 437189.93

OS Northings: 216868.7685

OS Grid: SP371168

Mapcode National: GBR 6V1.3B0

Mapcode Global: VHBZP.MS78

Entry Name: Fawler Roman villa

Scheduled Date: 22 March 1949

Last Amended: 24 July 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018213

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28186

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Fawler

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Finstock with Fawler

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes the site of a Roman villa, its associated buildings,
water management system and the buried remains of later post-medieval
agricultural buildings within two areas of protection. The monument is
situated on a gentle slope just above the valley floor to the north west of
the River Evenlode, below the hamlet of Fawler.
The villa itself, which is contained within the area of protection to the
north of the railway embankment, is no longer visible at ground level but a
series of observations and part excavations carried out over the past 150
years, along with a geophysical mapping survey carried out in 1996 have
provided evidence of the probable extent and nature of the monument.
This evidence has revealed that the villa faced a road which ran from the
north down to a ford across the river and then presumably 1km south to meet
the south west to north east aligned Akeman Street Roman road. The villa house
was surrounded by ancillary buildings including kitchens, workshops, barns and
stables and a bath house which would have been both functional and a status
During construction of the railway embankment and re-routing of the line of
the River Evenlode in the 19th century the villa was shown to be a substantial
building with thick limestone walls and a tesselated pavement above a
hypocaust floor. Although this was destroyed by the building work, where it
lay on the embankment route, parts of it, north of the embankment, were
buried, and the buildings were seen to extend well to the north. More recent
excavation revealed a stone causeway, believed to be Roman, carrying a road
down from the north to a bridging point over the river, immediately adjacent
to an earlier ford. A building close to the line of the river was identified
as a possible bath house, common on wealthy villa sites. This would have
contained both hot and cold pools with changing rooms, a fuel store and a
complicated heating system which worked by circulating hot air below the
floors by way of flues and bellows from a furnace room. The site also contains
a number of other ditches and walls which represent buildings of several
periods around and below which are a large number of quarry pits, rubbish pits
and wells, some of which have been excavated. The site has produced quantities
of Roman coins, imported samian pottery and more common local pottery wares.
The second area of protection to the south of the railway line was included in
a geophysical survey undertaken in 1996 which revealed evidence of two
substantial, parallel ditches running roughly west to east down to the
Evenlode. These measure up to 8m wide and lie approximately 6m apart. They are
associated with a pit which lies roughly 25m west of the Evenlode, between the
ditches. These features are believed to be associated with a Roman water
management system forming part of the villa estate and known from several
other villas of similar date. The system would have served several important
domestic and economic functions from providing water to the bath house to
helping control water levels in the Evenlode and preventing flooding in
winter. The system could also have provided water for fulling, as many
Oxfordshire villas probably produced wool for clothing rather than arable
crops as their main business. A woollen cape, similar to a `duffle coat' and
known as the `Birrus Britannicus' was a famous export from Roman Britain as
were woollen blankets.
A number of slight earthworks located towards the centre of the south west
quadrant of the first area of protection represent the remains of post-
medieval agricultural buildings and later quarrying and spoil dumping
associated with the railway construction. These have often been confused with
the earlier Roman structures which lie below them.
The name Fawler is believed to originate from a Saxon name `faga flora'
meaning coloured or spotted floor. This suggests that the villa survived in
part above ground or was encountered during digging in the early medieval
period. The discovery of small amounts of Saxon pottery further suggest that
activity continued on the site through the Dark Ages.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern boundary fences and walls, and
all modern buildings and telegraph poles, 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 at Fawler is known, despite having been partly damaged, to
include extensive surviving buried remains. These will contain archaeological
and environmental evidence relating to the construction of the villa, the ford
across the Evenlode at this point and the development and subsequent decline
of the economy of the site. The additional evidence of Roman water management
on the site which has not been found in association with any of the other West
Oxfordshire villa sites to date provides further important information about
the monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Allen, T G, 'Oxoniensia' in Excavations At Bury Close, Fawler, Oxon., , Vol. 53, (1988), 293-315
Allen, T G, 'South Midlands Archaeology' in Excavation on Line of Thames Water Pipeline, , Vol. NL 17, (1987), 88
A.M.L. Report 77/96, Cole, Mark, Fawler Roman Villa, Report on Geophysical Work, (1996)
A.M.L. Report 77/96, Cole, Mark, Fawler Roman Villa, Report on Geophysical Work, (1996)
Photos on SMR File, Oxfordshire, C.A.O., Various,
PRN 1295, C.A.O., Fawler Roman Villa, (1987)
PRN 1295, C.A.O., Fawler villa, (1984)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series
Source Date: 1980
SP 31 NE

Source: Historic England

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