Horton Kirby

Villa

Remains of a Roman villa were discovered in 1972 on the Westminster Field recreation ground, just across the Darent from the village. The discovery was made when new main sewage drains were being dug. The extra costs of diverting these to save the villa were met by public subscription, with fund-raising help from local schoolchildren.

The remains include those of a Roman granary, of aisled construction,  at least 100 ft in length and 60 ft wide. The granary appears to have formed part of a villa complex. Pottery found suggests a 2nd to 3rd century date for the site.

A large granary was excavated and measured in excess of 100ft in length and 60ft in width. The Granary had a raised floor supported on parallel lines of dwarf walling was surrounded by rows of smaller rooms, some of which also had raised floors. A plain tessellated floor was found in the NE corner room and a number of coloured tesserae suggest a possibility of a mosaic.

The granary had a number of phases of use. Initially it consisted of a main hall and two side aisles. A series of sleeper-walls were built across the hall, evidently to support a wooden floor raised above ground level. The function of the side aisles at this time is unclear as they do not have the sleeper-wall arrangement. It is thought that the entrance to the building was at the east end; an area outside the east end of the building was metalled. The second phase of use saw the aisles divided into twelve rooms of varying sizes. The east end was also modified at this time, creating a new room where the entrance had been. These rooms suggest a change in use of the building with hearths and a small area of tessellated flooring installed in three of the rooms. Domestic rubbish was also found in these spaces. In the third phase additional sleeper-walls were added to the western rooms, thus increasing the storage capacity of the building (and indicating that storage was still a function of at least part of the structure). The final phase of use of the building appears to have taken place once the building had been largely demolished. The final structure on the site consisted of drystone foundations and timber posts. This building was less than half the size of the original granary. A ditch was found to the east of the building.

Pottery from the site spaces at least 200 years of the Roman period. The earliest dates from AD 80 onwards but is limited to a small amount of material. The majority of material is of the 2nd century and into the first half of the 3rd century. Late 3rd and 4th century pottery was found but in limited quantities. Some sherds of 13th century pottery were found but could represent stone robbing activity; recycled Roman tile is present in the nearby church fabric. Apart from nails the only other find was a copper alloy pin or needle.

The second building was found to the southeast below the southern-most corner of the pavilion built in 1972/3. A robbed wall was located with disturbed flints and tesserae. A trench to the south of this was excavated in 1973. Remains of a building were exposed, pottery of the 2nd and 3rd centuries was found.

The site was back-filled after preservation work was completed.