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Romano-British villa 250m south of Park Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Snettisham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.8739 / 52°52'26"N

Longitude: 0.5083 / 0°30'29"E

OS Eastings: 568906.180537

OS Northings: 333665.597834

OS Grid: TF689336

Mapcode National: GBR P3N.WWB

Mapcode Global: WHKPT.S162

Entry Name: Romano-British villa 250m south of Park Farm

Scheduled Date: 7 July 1975

Last Amended: 28 January 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020860

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30626

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Snettisham

Built-Up Area: Snettisham

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Snettisham St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument includes the buried remains of a Romano-British villa and
associated features, located above a valley slope on the north east side of
the River Ingol and about 300m from the western line of the ancient route
known as the Icknield Way. In 1931 a small excavation in the eastern part of
the site uncovered wall foundations and yard surfaces associated with hearths
and large amounts of iron smithing slag, and in 1972 parts of the structure
and collapsed masonry of a substantial house were observed, exposed in the
side of a lynchet (a ridge formed as a result of ploughing on a slope)
alongside a track which runs north-south between two modern fields. A
geophysical survey of the surrounding area in 1995 produced evidence for a
complex of intersecting boundary ditches and other structures, with magnetic
anomalies indicative of extensive industrial activity.

The lynchet overlying the site of the house forms a bank about 2m high on the
western side, and the structural remains exposed in this scarp in 1972
included part of a mosaic floor of the kind often found in higher status
dwellings in Roman Britain. To the west and south west of this there is a
fairly level platform about 0.5ha in extent, and on this platform the
geophysical survey showed evidence for ditches defining what was probably a
small yard adjoining the house, with other features to the west of it which
include a possible metal working hearth. The boundary of the platform above
the slope of the valley appears on the plot of the survey as an anomaly which
could be a lynchet or a boundary ditch contemporary with the villa. To the
south of it is a linear feature interpreted as a former trackway running
west-east and forking at the eastern end, and a broad, meandering feature
which runs diagonally north westwards across the site from a point near the
southern end of the house site towards a track known as Water Lane, is thought
to mark the line of an old water course.

The main working area appears to have been on the opposite side of the house,
where the excavation in 1931 found evidence for a walled yard associated with
metal working and the geophysical survey registered features defining various
overlapping rectangular and sub-rectangular enclosures of different dates.
Among the most prominent of these features are three parallel ditches, running
on a NNW-SSE alignment about 100m to the east of the site of the house. They
are spaced 7m to 8m apart and probably mark a defensive boundary relating to
the villa. Two parallel ditches a similar distance apart run across them on a
roughly perpendicular alignment, from the north end of the house site
eastwards, and what may have been a short length of this double ditch, filled
with iron working slag, is noted in the earlier excavation records. A number
of other rectilinear ditches cross the parallel ditches on slightly different
alignments and, although some are unlikely to be contemporary, these may date
from other phases of the occupation of the villa.

In the northern part of the area surveyed, to the west of the triple ditch and
about 50m to the north and north east of the site of the house, an area of
magnetic `noise', and a corresponding spread of iron smithing slag recorded on
the surface of the field, marked an area of intensive metal working centred on
three strong magnetic anomalies characteristic of hearths or furnaces.
Crossing this area is a sinuous, linear feature thought to be a trackway.
About 100m to the south there were indications of three more hearths or
furnaces, associated with a series of rectilinear features defining small
enclosures and possible buildings.

Most of the pottery found on the site during the excavation and subsequently
is dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, which suggests that this was the
main period of occupation.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the
surface of a track which runs across the site, inspection chambers for a
water pipe, an information board and all modern fences and gates. The
ground beneath all these features is, however, 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 Romano-British villa 250m south of Park Farm survives well. It is
associated with a number of other Romano-British settlement sites recorded
in the valley of the River Ingol below it, and is one of six villa sites to
either side of the line of the Icknield Way in north west Norfolk where the
survival of buried remains can be demonstrated. It is of particular interest
because limited excavation in 1931 and the geophysical survey in 1995 have
confirmed that extensive remains of structures and other features associated
with iron working survive around the site of the house. The monument will
retain archaeological evidence not only for the form of the house, the date of
its construction and the manner and duration of its use, but also for the
industrial activity which contributed to the wealth of the estate and enabled
the occupants to live in this style. Recorded evidence for industry on this
scale within Romano-British villa complexes is comparatively rare, and this
example will contribute significantly to an understanding of the economic
organisation of villa estates and of the wider rural economy of this region of
Britain during the Roman period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Linford, P, Park Farm, Snettisham, Norfolk, Report of Geophysical Survey, (1935)
Copy in Norfolk SMR 1514, Sheringham, H C, Plan of portion of Roman villa Park Farm, (1931)
OS 67-069-108, (1967)

Source: Historic England

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