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Romano-British villa 400m west of White House

A Scheduled Monument in Fring, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.8776 / 52°52'39"N

Longitude: 0.5779 / 0°34'40"E

OS Eastings: 573577.226192

OS Northings: 334241.455109

OS Grid: TF735342

Mapcode National: GBR P3R.NXJ

Mapcode Global: WHKPN.VXCT

Entry Name: Romano-British villa 400m west of White House

Scheduled Date: 28 January 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020861

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30627

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Fring

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Fring All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument includes the buried remains of a large rectangular enclosure
containing buildings, identified as a Romano-British villa, and up to four
adjacent ring ditches which probably mark the site of prehistoric round
barrows. The enclosure is sited above an east facing slope on the north east
side of the Roman road known as Peddar's Way, and was discovered in 1974, when
crop marks (lines of differential crop growth above buried walls and ditches)
were first observed and recorded by aerial photography. An area of associated
settlement to the north and east of the enclosure is indicated by numerous
recorded finds of Roman pottery, coins and metal work from the ploughsoil of
the same field.

The enclosure revealed by crop marks is very regular in plan with internal
dimensions of around 165m NNE-SSW by 158m. Around the north western and north
eastern sides it is defined by two parallel ditches spaced about 8m apart. The
outer ditch continues around the eastern corner and then extends outward to
form an enclosure about 45m wide around a gap in the inner ditch where there
was probably an entrance gate, but there is no evidence that it continues
south of the entrance or around the south western side, where the crop marks
show only the continuation of the inner ditch. The area within the inner ditch
is subdivided across the entire width by two internal ditches, aligned
parallel to the north eastern and south western boundaries, to create a
central enclosure measuring about 110m NNE-SSW, with two much narrower
enclosures at either end.

The central enclosure contains the remains of at least three buildings whose
buried foundations have produced clear crop marks. Two are rectangular in
plan, one located to the south west of centre, and the other roughly centrally
at the north eastern end; the third is a hexagonal structure situated in the
northern corner. The first of the rectangular buildings measures
approximately 25m NNE-SSW by 10m, with a large central hall and a smaller room
at either end. The second is aligned WNW-ESE and of similar length, though
possibly slightly narrower in width, with a small room at the south eastern
end. Both resemble the simplest type of house found on Roman villa sites. The
hexagonal structure measures about 8m across and, on the evidence of similar
buildings found on Roman sites elsewhere, was probably a shrine or small
temple. Less distinct evidence for rectangular buildings in the enclosures at
the north eastern and south western ends has also been noted in some aerial

Fragments of roof tile and brick in the ploughsoil above the site provide some
evidence for the structure of the buildings, and numerous associated finds of
pottery, coins and metal work are believed to relate to the occupation of the
enclosure and associated activities. The dates of the pottery and coins range
from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD.

The four ring ditches known from crop marks are located outside the Roman
enclosure, two to the north and two to the south east. Of the two on the
north side, one is almost contiguous with the outer ditch of the enclosure,
and the other is about 25m to the north of the first. Both enclose circular
areas about 25m in diameter. A third and fourth ring ditch have been recorded
alongside the ditch on the south east side of the enclosure, situated between
the entrance and the south eastern corner. They measure about 23m and 12m in
diameter respectively. In size these features resemble the ditches which
commonly encircle Bronze Age barrow mounds and from which the material to
build the mounds was quarried, and although nothing of the barrow mounds
remains visible, they can be seen to relate to a number of surviving barrows
within a radius of 7km to the south and south east.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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

Evidence for Romano-British settlement along the line of Peddar's Way in north
west Norfolk is sparse, and the enclosure identified as a villa 400m west of
White House, together with another probable villa about 550m to the north west
appears to be an outlier of a much more densely inhabited area around 5km to
the west, between Heacham and Snettisham, and extending southward along the
line of the ancient track known as the Icknield Way. It is one of only seven
villa sites in this part of the county where the survival of buried remains
can been demonstrated, and is unique among these in that it is defined by a
substantial ditched enclosure and exhibits some unusual features. The ditches
and buildings revealed by crop marks, with associated buried deposits, will
retain archaeological evidence for the date of the construction of the villa,
the duration of its use and the activities of its occupants, together with
further information on the internal organisation of the compound and the
character of the buildings within it. The monument as a whole will contribute
to a better understanding of the settlement and rural economy of the area
during the Roman period.

Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to
the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC.
They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which
covered single or multiple burials, and occur either in isolation or grouped
as cemeteries. Often superficially similar in form, although differing widely
in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial
practices. They are a major archaeological element in the modern landscape,
and provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social
organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. The ring ditches adjacent
to the Romano-British enclosure, identified as the remains of round barrows,
relate to a number of surviving barrow groups in north west Norfolk, the
closest being at Bircham, about 5km to the south east, and although the
original mounds have been levelled, they are of particular interest for the
study of prehistoric settlement in the region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Johnson, D, Roman Villas, (1994), 33
Edwards, D, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in The Air Photographs Collection of the Norfolk Archaeology Unit, (1977), 234
Edwards, D, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in The Air Photographs Collection of the Norfolk Archaeology Unit, (1977), 234
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology TF7334/ABZ, (1989)
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology TF7334/Y, (1976)
Edwards, D, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology TF 7334/ABZ, (1989)

Source: Historic England

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