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Wigginton Roman villa and Iron Age enclosure, 300m north east of the Church of St Giles

A Scheduled Monument in Wigginton, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.9978 / 51°59'52"N

Longitude: -1.4281 / 1°25'41"W

OS Eastings: 439357.517636

OS Northings: 233417.790787

OS Grid: SP393334

Mapcode National: GBR 6S4.RQN

Mapcode Global: VHBZ4.61CS

Entry Name: Wigginton Roman villa and Iron Age enclosure, 300m north east of the Church of St Giles

Scheduled Date: 21 February 2011

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021460

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28898

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Wigginton

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Wigginton

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a Romano-British courtyard villa and Iron Age
enclosure, east of Wigginton on a gentle south facing slope north of the
River Swere. The villa is aligned NW-SE and includes three ranges of
buildings which are evident as raised platforms over 1m high, at the north
end of the complex. To the south of the buildings is the villa courtyard,
defined by vestigial ditches, within which are a number of outbuildings. To
the south beyond the courtyard is a rectilinear Iron Age ditched enclosure,
56m wide by 68m long, on the same alignment as the villa. All the above
features are identified by air photographs, and the three ranges of the villa
have been partially excavated.

The villa comprises two substantial wings, one to the west and one to the
east, connected by a large corridor building orientated NE-SW. The corridor
(about 5.3m wide) is located on the south side of its building and terminates
at its east end. At the west end, it joins a further corridor which runs
southwards along the east side of the west wing. Fragmentary remains of
tessellated pavement and mosaic are located in these corridors.

At least 15 rooms and passages are present in the corridor building. Ten of
these rooms contain mosaic and coarse tessellated pavements, five of which
were heated by hypocausts. At the axis of the building, within the corridor
is the main entrance to the villa. A small rectangular room projecting
southwards from the corridor, east of the main entrance, suggests a porch
leading to an entrance in the corridor wall. The main entrance then leads to
a large central room. Beneath the mosaic of this room is a lead water supply
pipe which conveyed water from a well on the north side of the building. At
the north east corner of the building is a small triangular apsidal room with
a hypocaust and a good quality mosaic.

Wigginton villa was first discovered in 1824 and partially excavated by
Skelton and Reverend C Winstanley. Two rooms were uncovered in the main north
range, including the triangular apsidal room, and a small skeleton laid
north-south. Roman coins dating to the third and fourth century AD were also
found. Further excavations of the main range were undertaken in 1965-66 by E
Greenfield for the Ministry of Works. These revealed a complex site dating
from the second-fourth centuries AD, with at least two phases of occupation.
Excavations also indicated that the villa had been reduced in size in the
late fourth century by sealing off all or part of the west wing. Finds
included a large quantity of painted plaster found in a hypocaust on the
north side of the building. These depicted part of a winged cherub in red
paint and fragments of a painted scene of columns and drapery. A plan of the
excavated main north range was published in "Roman Oxfordshire" (2000) by N
Henig and P Booth.

A field walking exercise of parts of the villa site was undertaken by Phoenix
MM Archaeology in 2000. A large amount of Roman artefacts were found, with
concentrations of finds in the location of the villa. Between 2003 and 2005,
Phoenix partially excavated the west wing of the villa. A geophysical survey
of the west wing was also undertaken at this time, results from which were
limited. Excavations uncovered two phases of plunge pool at the southern end
of the corridor, providing evidence for a bath house. Remains of hypocaust
heating and two mosaics were also revealed, one in good condition depicting
an aquatic scene. Finds from this excavation included a large amount of wall
plaster, some depicting a check pattern. A Roman lead baptismal tank 21cm
deep was also uncovered during metal detection.

The whole villa complex was recorded as cropmarks in 1996, by Roger
Featherstone as part of a RCHME aerial reconnaissance programme. In 2005, an
aerial investigation report by Helen Winton was published by English
Heritage. Results of the survey showed the north and east wings of the villa,
potential remains of outbuildings and an Iron Age enclosure to the south,
indicating that the complex covered a much larger area. The results confirmed
that a significant number of walls or foundations in the north and east wing
are still in situ. Mosaic or rubble floors can also be potentially indicated
by the appearance of blocks of cropmarks. Between the north and east wings of
the villa is a large area of compacted surface 34m wide and 45m long,
considered to represent a central area or courtyard.

About 420m to the south of the east wing of the villa and on the same
alignment, are the remains of a rectangular building which appears as
cropmarks measuring 12.4m wide by 30.4m long. Potential remains of further
buildings can also be seen to the west of this building, representing a
continuation of the villa complex. Further west, cropmarks of boundary
ditches appear, one in particular forming an L-shape alignment with the west
wing of the villa. This indicates that the villa complex was surrounded by a
large ditched enclosure.

The Iron Age ditched enclosure, about 350m square, appears about 150m further
south of the villa boundary ditches, also on the same alignment as the villa
itself. The ditches measure between 1.8m and 5.6m wide, and on the north side
of the enclosure the ditch narrows in the middle to form an entrance. This
enclosure has been interpreted as a 'proto-villa' due to its similarity to
other such enclosures in Oxfordshire.

Within the field to the west are the remains of ridge and furrow extending
SW-NE, which have been ploughed level, they are not included in the
scheduling. The field gate, field posts, fences and the feeding troughs in
the southern field are excluded from the scheduling; however the ground
beneath all these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 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 found throughout lowland Britain and between 400 and 1000
examples have been recorded in England. Of these less than 10 are examples of
`major' villas. These were the largest, most substantial and opulent type of
villa which were built and used by a small but extremely wealthy section of
Romano-British society. 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. All major villas will be identified as nationally important.

The Roman courtyard villa east of Wigginton is a rare type of site in
Oxfordshire which survives well. Excavations of the nineteenth and twentieth
century have shown the ground plan of the villa is well preserved with strong
evidence of multiple phases of development. The remains of good quality
mosaics and tessellated floors also survive in situ. Much of the villa and
associated complex remain unexcavated and therefore the site retains
potential for further investigation. These unexcavated areas will contain
information on the construction and evolution of the site and its associated
landscape. The site will also hold environmental and archaeological
information relating to the Roman occupation of Oxfordshire.

The size and form of Iron Age enclosed settlements vary considerably from
single farmsteads up to large semi-urban oppida. Farmsteads are generally
represented by curvilinear enclosures containing evidence of a small group of
circular domestic buildings and associated agricultural structures. Where
excavated, these sites are also found to contain pits or rectangular post-
built structures for the storage of grain and other produce, evidence of an
organised and efficient farming system. The surrounding enclosures would have
provided protection against cattle rustling and tribal raiding. In central
and southern England, most enclosed Iron Age farmsteads are situated in areas
which are now under intensive arable cultivation. As a result, although some
examples survive with upstanding earthworks, the majority have been recorded
as crop- and soil-marks appearing on aerial photographs.

The Iron Age enclosure east of Wigginton, seen from aerial photographic
evidence as an irregular sub-rectangular ditched area, appears to survive
well. Its proximity to the villa and comparisons with other such enclosures
in Oxfordshire indicates that it is a proto-villa. The enclosure will contain
archaeological evidence and environmental information relating to the
enclosure and the landscape in which it was constructed. It will also relate
to the Roman villa to the north of it.

Source: Historic England

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