Roman villas

Large Roman villas are generally interpreted as substantial and opulent country residences with multiple functions of land administration, recreation, agricultural and craft centres. Academics mainly agree that large villas were built and used by a small but extremely wealthy section of Romano-British society between the mid 1st century and the early 4th centuries AD.


A major villa is a large building comprising a series of more or less rectangular courtyards, at least one of which is completely surrounded by buildings forming a connected whole. They were used as domestic residences and administrative and servicing centres by farmers or landowners. They are extensive monuments recognisable as series of low regular earthworks and, more commonly, by a surface scatter of artefacts and building material indicative of a Romanised lifestyle, (eg. tesserae, marble, fine pottery sherds) covering a wide area (over 1ha). Almost all known examples of major villas were recognised long before the advent of modern archaeological survey techniques.


The one villa in Buckinghamshire that might be termed a major villa is that at Latimer. It's complete plan is not known but it appears from what has been found that it is a courtyard villa of large size.


Smaller Roman villas are much more common. Most Roman villas can be a simple corridor style like Tingewick, or have more complex plans with outbuildings, such as at Yewden. Many were recognised and excavated in the nineteenth century, such as Foscott Roman villa, whose mosaic floors were transported to the Queen's Temple in Stowe landscape gardens. These smaller villas seem to have been used as farmhouses rather than high class country retreats.


Mosaic floor from Foscott villa now in the Queen's Temple, Stowe