Hales Roman Villa
The Hales Roman Villais situated just five miles north-east of the partly-known Roman road running between Pennocrucium (Stretton, Water Eaton, South Staffordshire) in the south-east and Mediolanum (Whitchurch, Shropshire) to the north-west (Margary#19).
The site lies on a south facing slope towards the Coal Brook (a tributary of the Tern), where, superimposed on the natural slope is an elevated area about 400ft in width (east-west). The buildings so far discovered lie near the southern and western edges of this area, which strongly suggests that the buildings may form part of two sides of a courtyard villa facing south-south-west.
There are two known Roman buildings; Site A was uncovered by Pape in 1928 and was identified as part of a corridor villa, aligned NNW-SSE, and possibly dating from the late first century. Site B, identified as the villa’s bath-house, lies only 30 ft east of the south-east corner of Site A, and was excavated in 1966/7.
Two periods of occupation have been identified. The original structure was built out of the local red sandstone, and has been tentatively dated to the second century, and at a later date (as yet unknown) the original building underwent several alterations to its superstructure and its function appears to have changed. The original furnace was blocked up with rubble and a new floor laid over the top. At the same time the hot plunge bath was discontinued, and rooms I and II were heated from a new furnace cut through the wall of room II and fed from outside the building.
[SJ722338] … work was resumed on the bath house in 1969. An earlier floor beneath the hypocaust suggests that the building was only converted to use as a bath-suite in a secondary phase. The space between this building and the known corridor-house was roughly paved with sandstone.” (Britannia, 1971)
Rooms on the Excavation Plan
- (15ft x 9ft) The original caldarium of the bath suite. Two ‘Weep Holes’ were made at the foot of the north wall of this room to allow soil water to escape. Room Ia (8ft x 4ft) Attached to the south side of Room I, this area was not a room as such, but housed the hot plunge bath. Stacks of tiles known aspilae forming the hypocaust were found in situ, in places over a foot high. The fact that the north walls of this room are simply abutted against the side of Room I, and not bonded into the wall shows that this room was an addition to the original plan, and was built shortly after the original building was completed.
- (9ft 6ins x 9ft) This room was the tepidarium of the original bath suite. This room was later heated by a new furnace, which was broken through the south wall and fed from the outside.
- (14ft x 10ft 6ins) The praefurnium of the original bath suite, this room had a scattering of oak charcoal over much of its ground surface, and a large tile-built furnace with a clay floor in the north-west corner. The furnace was later blocked with clay and building rubble.
- (12ft x 9ft) This room had been positively identified as the frigidarium. A bronze fibula brooch was found during excavations on the floor of this room.
- This room formed a semicircular apse at the south-western end of the building. Its actual function is unknown but it may have contained wall seating or a shrine to some deity.
- This room contained the cold plunge bath or puteus. The interior surface of this room appeared to have been plastered with white opus signinum waterproof plaster, and several attempts had been made during the life of this room to improve the water-retention. A lead-lined concrete drain was inserted through the middle of the south wall, other fragments of lead pipe were also found here.
- This area contained the secondary furnace built to heat room II during its second incarnation. The furnace was built of sandstone at a slight angle to the rest of the building, probably to facilitate stoking. The sandstone construction suggests that this furnace was not built to maintain high temperatures like that in room III, and was probably for domestic heating. The floor in this area was covered with charcoal from Holly trees, not Oak like the original furnace.
- This area, outside the northern end of the bath-house, had a sandstone and tile drain. Several fragments of decorated Samian ware were found close to the wall of room III.
The Battle of Blore Heath
Just one mile to the north of the Hales Villa and two miles east of Market Drayton is the site of the Battle of Blore Heath. The battle was fought on 23rd September A.D. 1459, when the Yorkist Earl of Salisbury beat Lord Audley, during one of several ill-recorded battles of the ‘Wars of the Roses’ between the rival English houses of York and Lancaster.
While a young man, Robert Neville, Earl of Salisbury had earned himself a great reputation fighting alongside his brother-in-law Richard, Duke of York, during the latter stages of the Hundred Years’ War against France. He would naturally side with his old friend during his bid for power in England. His father, Thomas de Montacute Earl of Salisbury, was wounded by cannon fire on 24 October 1428 only 12 days into the Siege of Orleans. Raised by the English on 12 October 1428, the siege continued until 7 May 1429 when a 4,000 strong French army led by Jean D’Arc relieved the city. Incidentally, James Touchet Lord Audley and William Montague Earl of Salisbury, the great-grandfathers of the two protagonists at Blore Heath, had fought side by side at both Crecy and Poitiers at the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War.
References for Hales Roman Villa
- Britannia ii (1971) p.259;
- The Roman Villa Site at Hales Staffordshire: An Interim Report in N.S.J.F.S. ix (1968) pp.104-117.
Map References for Hales Roman Villa
NGRef: SJ722337 OSMap: LR127
Roman Roads near Hales Roman Villa