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Monument details

HER Number:TQ 55 NW 3
Type of record:Monument
Name:Otford Roman Villa


Site of a Roman corridor and courtyard villa dating from the second half of 1st century to the 2nd century AD. Located above Otford Station and south of Pilgrims Way, it was excavated in 1927-8 and in 1971. The villa was shown to have been damaged by fire during the late 2nd century and the courtyard was subsequently used to house cattle. Coins and pottery dating from the 1st to the 4th centuries were however found in large quantities particularly pottery dated 3rd-4th century. Also found were tesserae and painted plaster. An associated pottery kiln of circa 100 AD and 2 flagons were unearthed and a rubbish pit was found to the north east of the villa. An Iron Age brooch was also found. The site is now under a well established orchard and there are no visible remains.

Grid Reference:TQ 5364 5919
Map Sheet:TQ55NW

Monument Types

  • POTTERY KILN (POTTERY KILN, Roman - 43 AD to 100 AD)
  • TESSELLATED FLOOR (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • VILLA (VILLA, Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BROOCH (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • WALL PLASTER (Roman - 43 AD? to 200 AD?)
Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 1005155: Otford Roman villa

Full description

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[TQ 5359 5927] Roman Villa [NR] (1)

Part of a Roman villa, consisting of a corridor about 8ft. wide, and, 50ft. away, a courtyard, was excavated in 1927-8 by Pearce about 0.25 miles above Otford Station and south of Pilgrim's Way [see plan AO/LP/63/108 (3)]. (2-3)

The corridor, with a rubbish pit to the north-east, and the courtyard were built in the second half of the 1st century and were in use in the 2nd century. The courtyard, with its cellar structure, was used as a cattle refuge after the house was burnt down in the late 2nd century. Coins found ranged from the 1st to the 4th century and pottery from the 1st to 4th centuries (mostly 3rd and 4th century). Other finds included a La Tene I-II fibula, tesserae, and painted plaster. A Grimes type III pottery kiln, apparently abandoned c. 100 A.D., was also excavated. [See plan.] (4-5)

This villa lies beneath a long established orchard and there is nothing to be seen. The majority of the finds are in Maidstone Museum but a selection, which includes 2 flagons from the Kiln site, are in Sevenoaks Public Library and Museum. (6) [TQ 5362 5922] ROMAN VILLA [R] (site of) [NAT] (7)

The siting generally accepted by local archaeologists is that shown onthe O.S. 25". (8)

Walling, rubble, plaster, and pottery located by excavation at TQ 53625921 in April 1971. (9)

Roman villa, Otford, Kent. Scheduled No. 150. (10)

Additional bibliography. (11)

Part of a corridor villa occupied in the 1st and 2nd century and possibly abandoned, with a kiln of the same period. A later building occupied in the 4th and perhaps 3rd centuries, to the N, aligns with the entrance and may represent a rebuilding of part of the original villa.
Nothing to be seen of the monument apart from certain irregularities in ground.
As before.
Excavations for a tennis court in the garden of no.30, Pilgrim’s Way East apparently produced no evidence of tile or building material.
Nothing visible above ground in an area of private gardens with some rough grass and an old orchard. (14)

In 2006 a geophysical survey was undertaken to establish size, preservation and layout of the villa. The survey concluded that the site was well preserved and additional archaeological features were observed such as a number of pits, robbed out walls and a possible kiln or apse which may have suggested a bath house. Also observed were several features which were identified as the trenches dug from the 1926/7 partial excavation. (15)

Another geophysical survey was carried out on the site in 2015 to try and determine the extent and layout of the villa using earth resistance techniques. The survey did not have clear results but found the likely remains of walls possibly enclosing a large courtyard. Two circular low resistance features were also identified, both 15m in diameter indicating iron age houses. Previous excavations may contribute to the inability to produce a clear plan. (17)

Painted wall plaster found in the 1920s includes three fragments of wall plaster painted black with a line of text in white (between guidelines); it reads BINA MANV L[…], which translates as 'Two [spears] in hand…' . An associated fragment shows a figure holding a spear. This is thought to represent a scene from the Aeneid (either I,313 or xii, 165). This is on display in the British Museum.

From the NHLE:

Summary of Monument

Otford Roman Villa, 200m south-west of Beechy Lees Lodge
Reasons for Designation

Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates at the focus of which were groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings. 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 and are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled to fit changing circumstances. 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.

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. 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 important.

Despite some disturbance by partial excavation and modern development, Otford Roman Villa is a good example of its type, which survives well. It retains potential for further investigation, which will reveal further evidence regarding the ground plan and phasing of the villa. The site will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the villa and the landscape in which it was constructed.

See Details

This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a minor Roman villa surviving as buried remains. It is situated on the lower slopes of a steep escarpment forming the east side of the Darenth Valley in the South Downs.

The villa was part uncovered by excavation in the 20th century but has since been backfilled. It includes a corridor to the south-west and a courtyard, about 15m away, to the north-east. The corridor is about 2.5m wide with walls constructed of ironstone slabs to the west and flint to the east. In 1927, painted plaster was recorded on the interior of the walls but subsequent frosts led to its collapse. There are at least three rooms branching off from the corridor. Postholes have been identified in the line of, or under, the walls. The courtyard to the north-east is rectangular in plan and orientated broadly north-east to south-west. It is approximately 18m long by 12m wide externally. The walls are constructed of chalk rubble upon which are rows of flint. At least part of the interior and the exterior to the north-west is paved with flint. A break in the south-east wall indicates that the entrance is sited at this point. A possible ‘cellar’ building with stone steps has been cut in the north-east end of the south-east wall at a later date. To the south-east of the courtyard is a kiln built of chalk and ironstone.

The villa was partially excavated in 1927-8 and 1971. The finds included Roman coins ranging from an Agrippa, AD 37, to Magnentius coins, AD350-353; Samian ware, Castor ware and Coarse ware pottery; oyster shells; animal bones; and small finds such as an Iron Age fibula, a Roman fibula, rings, bracelets and a bronze gilt bust of a woman.

The villa is considered to have been built in the mid first century AD and the kiln a short time later. It is thought to have been burnt down towards the end of the second century AD, although the courtyard probably continued in use as a livestock refuge after this date. The possible ‘cellar’ building is thought to have been occupied in the 4th century AD.(16)

results of geophysical Survey (17-18)

<1> OS 6" 1961 (OS Card Reference). SKE48369.

<2> Arch Cant 39 1927 153-8 (B W Pearce) (OS Card Reference). SKE35064.

<3> Arch Cant 42 1930 157-71 plans illusts (B W Pearce) (OS Card Reference). SKE35107.

<4> VCH Kent 3 1932 122 131 (M V Taylor and R F Jessup) (OS Card Reference). SKE51008.

<5> Y Cymmrodor 41 1930 72 (W F Grimes) (OS Card Reference). SKE51423.

<6> F1 CFW 11-AUG-64 (OS Card Reference). SKE42526.

<7> OS 25" 1962 (OS Card Reference). SKE48278.

<8> F2 CFW 23-AUG-65 (OS Card Reference). SKE43271.

<9> Letter (B Philp 2 4 1971) AO/O/7B (OS Card Reference). SKE46022.

<10> DOE (IAM) AM Record Forms and plan 21 2 73 no 150 (OS Card Reference). SKE40683.

<11> Pottery Kilns of Roman Britain 1984 84 and map 17 (V G Swan) (OS Card Reference). SKE48572.

<12> Field report for monument TQ 55 NW 3 - August, 1964 (Bibliographic reference). SKE2791.

<13> Field report for monument TQ 55 NW 3 - August, 1965 (Bibliographic reference). SKE2792.

<14> English Heritage, Register of Scheduled Monuments (Scheduling record). SKE16191.

<15> Otford and District Archaeological Group, 2006, Geo Physics Survey: Progress Roman Villa, Otford, Sevenoaks, Kent (Unpublished document). SKE17040.

<16> Historic England, National Heritage List for England (Index). SKE29372.

<17> West Kent Archaeological Society, 2015, Geophysical Report. "Progress" Roman Villa, Otford, Kent (Unpublished document). SKE31263.

<18> West Kent Archaeological Society, 2017, Geophysical Report: Castle House, Otford, Kent (Unpublished document). SKE32411.

<19> Caroline Farquhar, 2017, An examination of the religious and ritual practices of the communities at the head of the Darent valley, Kent, in the Roman period (Unpublished document). SKE52885.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1961.
<2>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 39 1927 153-8 (B W Pearce).
<3>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 42 1930 157-71 plans illusts (B W Pearce).
<4>OS Card Reference: VCH Kent 3 1932 122 131 (M V Taylor and R F Jessup).
<5>OS Card Reference: Y Cymmrodor 41 1930 72 (W F Grimes).
<6>OS Card Reference: F1 CFW 11-AUG-64.
<7>OS Card Reference: OS 25" 1962.
<8>OS Card Reference: F2 CFW 23-AUG-65.
<9>OS Card Reference: Letter (B Philp 2 4 1971) AO/O/7B.
<10>OS Card Reference: DOE (IAM) AM Record Forms and plan 21 2 73 no 150.
<11>OS Card Reference: Pottery Kilns of Roman Britain 1984 84 and map 17 (V G Swan).
<12>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TQ 55 NW 3 - August, 1964.
<13>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TQ 55 NW 3 - August, 1965.
<14>XYScheduling record: English Heritage. Register of Scheduled Monuments. [Mapped feature: #466 Villa, ]
<15>Unpublished document: Otford and District Archaeological Group. 2006. Geo Physics Survey: Progress Roman Villa, Otford, Sevenoaks, Kent.
<16>Index: Historic England. National Heritage List for England.
<17>Unpublished document: West Kent Archaeological Society. 2015. Geophysical Report. "Progress" Roman Villa, Otford, Kent.
<18>Unpublished document: West Kent Archaeological Society. 2017. Geophysical Report: Castle House, Otford, Kent.
<19>Unpublished document: Caroline Farquhar. 2017. An examination of the religious and ritual practices of the communities at the head of the Darent valley, Kent, in the Roman period.