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Roman villa in and adjacent to Denbeck Wood

A Scheduled Monument in Flitcham with Appleton, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.819 / 52°49'8"N

Longitude: 0.542 / 0°32'31"E

OS Eastings: 571391.281017

OS Northings: 327631.99738

OS Grid: TF713276

Mapcode National: GBR P4G.CTL

Mapcode Global: WHKQ1.9DBR

Entry Name: Roman villa in and adjacent to Denbeck Wood

Scheduled Date: 12 March 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020771

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30615

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Flitcham with Appleton

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Flitcham St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument includes remains of a Roman villa located around the springheads
of Den Beck, at the eastern end of Denbeck Wood. The site, which lies about
500m west of the ancient route known as the Icknield Way, was first identified
in the 1940s, when several concentrations of Roman building materials were
noted on the surface of ploughed fields to the north and south of the wood.
Exploratory excavations carried out in 1947 and 1948 revealed the underlying
remains of at least three buildings, although the investigations were too
limited to establish details of the plans of the buildings or the layout of
the villa as a whole. Pottery and coins found on and around the site are
dated from around AD 150 to AD 330, suggesting that it was occupied for about
180 years.

The most extensive excavation was immediately to the north of the wood, within
an area measuring about 50m SSE-NNW by 69m ESE-WNW. In the north western part
of this area the remains of a rectangular structure were found, measuring
approximately 23m WNW-ESE by at least 12.5m overall and interpreted by the
excavator as a walled yard. On the north and west sides the foundations of the
outer wall were of mortared flint rubble about 0.45m thick, and on the east
side the line of the wall was marked by a foundation trench about 0.75m wide
from which the stone had been removed. A series of small, walled compartments
between 1.5m and 1.75m deep were ranged along the inner face of the west wall
and the north west corner, and the interior to the east of these was covered
by a thick layer of flint cobbles, possibly the foundation for a tile
pavement, since numerous fragments of floor tile were found scattered over the
site. The structure was thought to date from a period fairly late in the
history of the site, and evidence for earlier occupation was found beneath the
pavement. About 24m to the east of this structure, part of a wall belonging to
what was probably the main house was located. This was aligned ENE-WSW, and to
the north of it lay an area of flint cobbles on which rested fragmentary
remains of a mosaic floor. The building materials found on and around the site
included wall plaster and fragments of window glass. The area of these
excavations has remained undisturbed, and the outlines of the excavation
trenches and some of the upstanding foundations are still visible.

Excavations on the opposite side of the wood, about 25m south of the springs,
uncovered evidence for another building with a floor of pink plaster and
associated debris of stone blocks, mortared flints, floor and roof tiles. The
area investigated was too limited to determine the full extent or the
character of this building, although it was noted that the scatter of building
material extended northward into the wood, and the location, close to the
springs, suggests that it may have been a detached bath house. The bed of the
stream contains numerous fragments of Roman tile.

All fence posts, two brick built dams in the stream and an upstanding brick
inspection chamber adjacent to the dams 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 excavations conducted on the site of the Roman villa in and adjacent to
Denbeck Wood served to demonstrate the survival of building remains and
associated features below the ploughsoil to north and south of the wood, and
the type and quality of the building materials and other finds confirmed the
identification of the buildings as parts of a minor villa, occupied over a
period of nearly two centuries. The investigations were, however, limited in
extent and generally superficial, and the monument will retain much additional
archaeological information concerning the plan and layout of the villa and the
lives of those who occupied it. The area of the excavations to the north of
the wood have remained undisturbed since the late 1940s and in the area
investigated to the south of the wood the recorded depth of topsoil is around
0.75m, which is sufficient to ensure the survival of remains below the normal
depth of modern ploughing. The remains were also observed to extend into the
wood between the two areas. The villa is one of a series of Roman settlement
sites identified close to the line of the Icknield Way in north west Norfolk,
although very few of these have been the subject of excavation. The monument
is therefore of particular importance for the study and better understanding
of Roman settlement in the region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Clarke Rainbird, R, 'Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin' in Interim Report on Excavations at Appleton, September 1947, , Vol. 1, (1949)
Gregory, T, 'The Romano British Countryside' in Romano British Settlement In West Norfolk And the Norfolk Fen Edge, , Vol. 103, (1982), 360-362
Rainbird Clarke, R, 'Arch News Letter' in Roman Villa On Royal Estate In Norfolk, (1949)
Rainbird Clarke, R, 'J Roman Studies' in , , Vol. 39, (1949), 104
Rainbird Clarke, R, 'J Roman Studies' in , , Vol. 38, (1948), 90,91
Letter; copy in SMR File, Lewton-Braine, C , (1954)
Sketch plan in file, 3481; Denbeck Wood Roman Villa,

Source: Historic England

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