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HER Number:MDV36156
Name:Roman Villa East of Otterton Point


Site of a possible Roman villa to the east of Otterton Point.


Grid Reference:SY 078 819
Map Sheet:SY08SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishOtterton
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishOTTERTON

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Roman villa at Otterton Point

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 897597
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SY08SE/53

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • VILLA (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD (Between))

Full description

Brown, S. + Holbrook, N., 1989, A Roman Site at Otterton Point, 29-42 (Article in Serial). SDV103583.

Possible villa site set in the slopes of a combe overlooking the mouth of the River Otter. Bulk of fieldwalking finds come from an area 1000 square metres north of the coastal path. A single piece of tile was found on the path in 1988. The excavations of 1989 produced evidence of at least two buildings, an oven and evidence of land management. The west end of a building (corner, referred to above) 9.1 metres wide was excavated. This was built largely of coursed local calcrete rubble, sometimes set in herring-bone pattern, which stood 1.1 metres tall and 0.75 metres wide upon a 1 metre wide foundation of unmortared stone in a foundation trench. The north west corner of the building had dressed sandstone quoins. Eavesdrip drain gullies ran outside the wall. The interior had a simple beaten earth floor with animal bone, sea shell, slate and pottery trodden into it. Some time after its construction the south wall had been faced with gravelly mortar. Abandonment is indicated by an accumulation of sand and slate fragments followed by a layer of collapsed roof slates and then mounds of wall rubble. Mounds of similar rubble were found circa 17 metres to the west at a depth of 2 metres, which may indicate that the building was over 9 metres long or that there was a further building nearby. The simple floor and poor quality slate roof suggest that this building was an ancillary structure. 20 metres to the south a further building was identified at the foot of the scarp rising from the coast path to the cliff top. This was indicated by a mound of rubble containing unabraded pottery and tile fragments including roof tiles and pila tiles from an underfloor heating system. This building may have been lost to cliff erosion, or may have been terraced into the scarp, the rubble tumbling down to rest beside the coast path. This building was of higher status than the first. 20 metres to the west of this part of a shallow straight sided trench, 0.4 metres deep and over 0.77 metres wide, was excavated. A few stones in the bottom suggest it was a robber trench. There was one piece of Roman tile in the fill. This may represent a small or narrow building set in a terrace which is no longer visible. Circa 5 metres north-east of the heated building, the remains of an oven were excavated. This was 0.6 metres in diameter and cut into an outcrop of sandstone. There were signs of burning around its outer edge and flue and it was filled with a charcoal and loam deposit containing a Roman pot sherd. This area had been plough damaged. Drainage gullies had been dug along the upper slopes of the combe, in order to carry away surface water. These had infilled with dark, charcoal-rich loam with sea shells, animal bone and pot sherds which may indicate dumping of domestic refuse or the manuring of adjacent fields. One gully also produced tile fragments, iron nails and slag. Terraces, with drystone revetting walls, were also cut along the lower slopes of the combe, though much of the revetting had been robbed. These walls were out of use before the final collapse of the first stone building, as a 0.5 metres deposit of colluvium over the combe floor was overlain by collapsed roof material and was also cut by a pit 1.9 metres diameter and 0.5 metres deep. The collapsed buildings were covered by up to 0.8 metres of colluvium, which produced a medieval pot sherd, suggesting that medieval or later cultivation of the slopes continued causing further hillslope erosion. The Roman pottery evidence suggests occupation concentrated on the 3rd century, but may have begun in the late 2nd century. It is possible that an earlier, timber, structure underlay the first stone building, but this was only represented by a compacted surface containing fragments of pot, slate and sea shells, but this may equally well have been an old ground surface. Elsewhere the deep hillwash deposits may overlie further structures.

Unknown, 1989, Otterton Villa (Ground Photograph). SDV355063.

Exmouth and East Devon Jounal, 1989, Road Link With Roman Villa Theory (Article in Serial). SDV355065.

Dawes, E., 1989, Roman Villa May Become Ancient Monument (Article in Serial). SDV355066.

Pattison, P., 1989, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Field Investigation (Un-published). SDV103592.

Site visit 3rd October 1989.

Exmouth and East Devon Jounal, 1989, Topsham Man's Roman Villa Discovery (Article in Serial). SDV355064.

Brown, S. + Holbrook, N., 1989, Untitled Source (Un-published). SDV103581.

Follwing finds of tile, a field the north of the coastal footpath was fieldwalked in detail. Material recovered included roof tile and box tile, and eighteen sherds including samian, black-burnished ware and mortaria fragments, giving a date between the mid 2nd century and the first half of the 3rd century. This building appears to be a villa. The topography of the site makes its true extent uncertain at present, and also its state of preservation. Further work is proposed.

Griffith, F. M., 1989, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV103582.

Limited trial excavation in October 1989 produced, in a slit trench in the combe bottom, a corner of a well-preserved stone building standing up to 1m high, and evidence of further structures immediately to the south of the coastal footpath. Hypocaust tiles, roofing slates and well-preserved pottery from later 2nd to 4th centuries also recovered. Status of site still unclear. Likely to be scheduled by HBMC.

Frere, S. S., 1990, Roman Britain in 1989, 350 (Article in Serial). SDV103588.

Brown, S. W. + Holbrook, N., 1990, Trial Excavations at a Roman Site at Otterton Point, 1989 (Report - Evaluation). SDV103589.

Moore, K. J., 1999, Archaeological Coastal Survey of the East Devon Coast (Report - Survey). SDV102533.

Exeter Archaeology, 2003-2004, East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Archaeological Survey, Site No. 2219 (Archive - Survey). SDV351568.

Site of probable villa. Trial excavations in 1989 produced evidence of at least 2 buildings, an oven and evidence of land management.

National Monuments Record, 2010, 897597 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV345761.

Excavations uncovered the site of Roman buildings and a hypocause dated to the late 2nd-3rd century AD, possibly a villa. Cropmarks of possible hut circles and enclosures. Other details: SY08SE19. Record last updated: N/A.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV102533Report - Survey: Moore, K. J.. 1999. Archaeological Coastal Survey of the East Devon Coast. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.
SDV103581Un-published: Brown, S. + Holbrook, N.. 1989. A Roman Site Near Otterton Point, Devon.
SDV103582Personal Comment: Griffith, F. M.. 1989.
SDV103583Article in Serial: Brown, S. + Holbrook, N.. 1989. A Roman Site at Otterton Point. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 47. Paperback Volume. 29-42.
SDV103588Article in Serial: Frere, S. S.. 1990. Roman Britain in 1989. Britannia. 21. Unknown. 350.
SDV103589Report - Evaluation: Brown, S. W. + Holbrook, N.. 1990. Trial Excavations at a Roman Site at Otterton Point, 1989. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 90.17. A4 stapled + Digital.
SDV103592Un-published: Pattison, P.. 1989. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Field Investigation. Unknown.
SDV345761National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2010. 897597. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV351568Archive - Survey: Exeter Archaeology. 2003-2004. East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Archaeological Survey. East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Archaeological Survey. Digital + Mixed Archive Material. Site No. 2219.
SDV355063Ground Photograph: Unknown. 1989. Otterton Villa. Photograph (Paper) + Digital.
SDV355064Article in Serial: Exmouth and East Devon Jounal. 1989. Topsham Man's Roman Villa Discovery. Exmouth and East Devon Journal. Photocopy.
SDV355065Article in Serial: Exmouth and East Devon Jounal. 1989. Road Link With Roman Villa Theory. Exmouth and East Devon Journal. Photocopy.
SDV355066Article in Serial: Dawes, E.. 1989. Roman Villa May Become Ancient Monument. Exmouth and East Devon Journal. Photocopy.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds

  • FDV601 - SHERD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FDV599 - TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FDV600 - TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV3157 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV3158 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV3159 - RCHME Field Investigation

Date Last Edited:Oct 21 2016 12:45PM