Barnsley Park Villa

Villa

A Roman villa discovered in 1950 lying within a contemporary field system. The site has been excavated between 1961 and 1979 and the results conclude that there was a period of occupation between AD 140 and the 5th century. The main developments of the site history have been grouped into 10 phases. The first of these (AD 140-315) saw the establishment of a farm, centred on a wooden framed farmhouse with yards to the north and south. A second farmhouse replaced this between AD 315 and 340. A bath house was added around AD 340-360. This was later extended and incorporated into a winged corridor villa replacing the farmhouse. This villa was later subject to additions before it was turned over to agricultural use. Finds from the excavations include pottery, a buckle and three infant graves. These were all donated to the Corinium Museum. The field system is visible as a series of narrow earth banks.

The Roman villa at Barnsley Park was interpreted by its excavator as a farm run by a family and a body of workers, its distinctive archaeological features being the division into three yards and the existence of a number of circular structures described as pens. An alternative hypothesis envisages a kin-group, the ‘pens’ being the houses associated with three farmyards. The three families are presumed to have held and worked the surrounding land in some kind of joint proprietorship. This system became Romanised as a hall-type villa designed for the occupation of some modified form of the kin-group.

A timber phase, with post-holes, gullies and hearths, is connected with possible 3rd cent pottery, and dry-stone-walling, probably of a large farm-yard complex is dated by coins of AD 280-325.

The main building phase, which includes a building of winged corridor type, a large barn and a bath-house, occurred between 350 and 360 AD. A change from domestic
to increased agricultural use took place c 380 AD, and later indications point to the use by peasants of the surviving farm buildings, which show no signs of a violent end. Three sherds of grass-tempered pottery and a Germanic military-type buckle hint at 5th cent occupation. There are traces of other buildings in the vicinity, with associated field banks covering an area of over 100 acres.

A west wing and other extensions were added to the villa between AD 375-380 (phases 7) before radical changes in AD 380-400 (phase 8) during which the villa building was turned over to agricultural use. Phases 9-10 saw the complete demolition of the villa building, its rubble- filled foundation possibly being used as a stock yard. The barn, meanwhile, survived till the abandonment of the site during the 5th Century.

Other Buildings

The site excavated up to the present time is surrounded by other buildings for at lest 50 yds in all directions, and lies at the centre of a field system covering about eight modern fields. A Romano-British field system covers about 120 acres and occupies most of the norther half of the park at Barnsley, linked to and on the same general alignment as the four or more acres of dry-stone walled closes which surround the Roman buildings. The field boundaries consist of narrow earth banks emphasised by ancient plough action, and the overall pattern is akin to that of prehistoric and  “Celtic” fields. The remains of a substantial bank and ditch  bound the more clearly defined
fields on the west. Possibly contemporary with the fields is a sunken area SE of the villa , with a small central mound approached by four linear hollows.

Field-system

The field-system is defined by earthen banks orientated roughly east-west and north-south and are linked to and on the same general alignment as the dry-stone walls which surround the Roman villa site. The field-system covers an area which measures 470m east-west and 480m north-south. The field-system pattern is further complicated by the existence of at least four other main phases of land-use, each represented by its own earthworks.

Excavations

Roman villa at Barnsley Park, discovered in 1950. Excavations have been carried out since 1961 under the direction of Dr Graham Webster and P J Fowler. Occupation from the 2nd cent is indicated by pottery of that date, including Samian ware, found over the whole site, though no associated structures have been discovered.