Roman farmsteads

A Roman farmstead is recognised principally from aerial photography where circular and rectangular buildings and enclosures are visible as earthworks, crop- or soilmarks. They can also be identified through fieldwalking and/or geophysical survey. Farmsteads were a common characteristic of the rural landscape throughout the Roman period. They were the dwelling places and small-scale production and processing centres of individual families or small kinship groups involved in mixed farming.


Farmsteads are not only found in the Roman period. Iron Age building traditions and farming methods often continue into the Roman period but stone frequently replaced timber as a building material from the early 2nd century onwards and round buildings were increasingly replaced by rectangular buildings. Farmsteads which were founded after AD43 are relatively rare and appear to be concentrated in certain areas such as the Fenlands, E.Yorks, the coastal plain of Sussex, and in the vicinity of Hadrian's Wall, all of which seem date from the 2nd century AD. The length of time during which individual farmsteads were occupied varied considerably. Some, eg. Tallington,Lincs., had a short lifespan of c.30 years; others, eg. Winterton,Lincs., existed for 100-150 years as farmsteads prior to expansion as villas or villages; still others, eg. Frost Hill, Sussex, continued in existence for 400 years or more.


Several Roman farmsteads are known in Buckinghamshire. One was identified from finds made in a garden in Micklefield in High Wycombe and dates to the second century AD. One farmstead that seems to have continued in use from the Iron Age was investigated at Mount Wood in Chenies. Other farmsteads were found in excavation at Three Locks Golf Course in Great brickhill and Lake End Road West, Dorney.