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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 202262

Hob Uid: 202262
Location :
Dorset
Fifehead Neville
Grid Ref : ST7728011210
Summary : Excavations uncovered the site of a Roman winged corridor villa. A hoard of jewellery, some marked with Christian symbols, was also found.
More information : (ST 77281121) ROMAN VILLA (R) (site of) (NAT) (1)

(13) ROMAN VILLA. A mosaic pavement was found in 1881 about 90ft E of the R. Divelish, N. of Fifehead Mill (77281121). It lay on Corallian limestone some 210 ft. above O.D. In 1902-5 this pavement was re-excavated, two more mosaics were exposed and a further wing of an extensive building was traced. The wing containing the mosaics was orientaged E. to W. and measured over 120 ft. by 50 ft., with rooms projecting to the S. at both ends. The E. and W. extremities were apparently not fully cleared and the building probably continued further to the W. There appears to have been a range of five or more large rooms with corridors to the N. and S.; that to the S. was divided by three cross-walls and was 9 ft. wide.
At the W. end, the floor found in 1881 occupied a room measuring 13 ft. by 12 ft. The design (Plate 133) consisted of a two-handled chalice set in a circle within two concentric borders, the inner containing seven fish and the outer, wider band, four dolphins. The circle and borders were set in a square and the four triangular spaces at the corners were filled with patterns of stylised leaves. At the N. and S. were strips of dentil pattern and the whole was surrounded by a border of crowstep pattern in red and white within a plain edging of blue-grey tesserae. The colours of the main panel were red, brown and blue-grey on a white ground.
To the S. of this room was a rectangular plunge bath (9 ft. by 4 ft.) with sides of red cement and a bottom of large tiles. In it was found the limestone column which is now set up at the Manor House (3); it is 5 ft. 1 1/2 ins. long, including the moulded capital and base (Plate 133). There was a lead outlet pipe 2 3/4 ins. in diameter at the bottom of the bath. To the W. of the first room were the pilae of a hypocaust system which had supported a white mosaic floor. A large column base was found in positon some distance away.
The principal discoveries of 1902-5 were made at the E. end of the same block. The mosaic floor of a room 19 1/2 ft. square had a design consisting of a central roundel containing a female bust with a staff or spear, surrounded by geometric designs (Plate 133). Some tesserae were of Kimmeridge shale. There was evidence for a concrete floor under the pavement, possibly of an earlier phase. To the E. of this room another of similar size was reached through an opening 12 ft. wide. Only fragments of the mosaic pavement remained, including a circle with a palmette star and a border with a double pelta pattern both designs being in red on white. A room to the S. measured 19 ft. by 17 ft. and its damaged mosaic floor, with a design of 'heads in a circle', was carried on a hypocaust with five channels radiating from the centre, four running to the angles of the room and the fifth to a stokehole in the E. wall.
To the S.E. of the main block, a building 160 ft. long by 24 ft. wide ran N. to S. This may be interpreted as two barns, of which the northern was divided into a central room 46 ft. long flanked by rooms 8 ft. and 12 ft. long. A series of post-holes, 5 ft. apart, continued the line of the S. wall of the S. barn and another series apparently ran parallel to the W. wall, 14 ft. from it. A ditch 3 ft. wide at the bottom with an outer scarp 6 ft. wide and 3 ft. high enclosed the buildings and court on the N., S. and E.
The finds included coins of Trajan and Gallienus to Gratian. The principal discovery was a hoard, buried in the floor of a room at the W. end of the main block, consisting of two silver rings (see below), a silver necklace or girdle fastener, nine bronze bracelets and fragments of others. Each ring bore on the bezel a Chi-Rho, in one case below a dove and olive branches. Window glass, roofing tiles and stone roofing slabs, painted wall plaster with blue, white, green, black and red designs, brooches and shale beads were also found. Some of the finds survive, including five bracelets in the D.C.M. and roofing tiles in the B.M. (P.S.A. Ser. ii, VIII (1881), p543; IX (1882), p66; Dorset Procs. XXIV (1903), pp172-7; L (1928), pp92-6; also unpublished notes, plans and photographs in D.C.M. and Society of Antiquaries Library, London).
Two plans exist, both drawn in 1904 but differing in details and measurements. One, by Miss M. E. Hartley, is preserved in the Dorset County Museum; the other, made for Messrs Rawlence and Squarcy probably by J. E. Batchelor, is in the Digby Estate Office at Sherborne. The latter forms the basis of the accompanying plan. There are also two drawings of the best preserved mosaic, by Miss Hartley and by C.H. Goater, both in D.C.M.; the former is used for Plate 133, since a note by J. E. Acland and photographs suggest that it is the more accurate of the two. (2)

There are no surface remains or air photograph markings to indicate the position of this former Roman Villa. The published O.S. siting (1) is to the base of a gentle south west facing slope, in permanent meadowland. Three sherds of abraded coarse Romano-British red ware, and a fragment of an ? imbrex were found near a gap in the hedge bank at ST 77251117.
(The site is not published on OS 25" 1900-01). (3)

DO 13 Listed as the site of a Roman villa. The winged corridor house is associated with a complex of substantial masonry buildings. The house is also combined with an oblong block of rooms set at right angles to it, producing a L-shaped dwelling. (4)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1962
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume three : central Dorset [in two parts]
Source details : Pt 1
Page(s) : 93-4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 JWS 27-FEB-79
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : A gazetteer of Roman villas in Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 52
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.1

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 399
Monument Start Date : 100
Monument Type : Villa, Mosaic, Barn
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Find

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Villa, Mosaic, Barn
Object Type : HOARD, JEWELLERY
Object Material :

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DO 804
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Dorset)
External Cross Reference Number : 01B
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Dorset)
External Cross Reference Number : 13
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : ST 71 SE 10
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 888686
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIFEHEAD NEVILLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1881-01-01
End Date : 1881-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIFEHEAD NEVILLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1902-01-01
End Date : 1905-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON ST 71 SE 10
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1979-02-27
End Date : 1979-02-27