Latimer Roman Villa

Villa

In the 1st century AD the site of the Roman Villa at Latimer was occupied by a timber building probably occupied and abandoned by Belgic farmers. The villa was one of perhaps five villas built along the valley of the river Chess during the mid-second century. This first villa had eight rooms and a small bath suite. The villa was well appointed and later in about 210-20, it was subsequently expanded and improved.  new rooms, some with hypocausts, and another corridor were added and the bath suite much enlarged. The house at the west is of the winged corridor type, fronted by a large courtyard bisected by a paved central drive with a banked edge.

The late 3rd Century Decline of Latimer Villa

In the late 3rd century it fell into disrepair and was abandoned for a short time, but when it was rebuilt at the beginning of the 4th century it was given an enclosed courtyard and substantial projecting wings. Excavations produced evidence for gardens adjacent to the main residence in its latest phase dating to the beginning of the 4th century. Between the outer courtyard wall and the house were areas used for gardening. There was the possibility of an orchard on the northern side of the drive as well as a formal flower garden nearer to the house between the projecting wings. Finally a small pit just inside the courtyard gateway may represent a pit dug to take one of a pair of trees flanking the entrance.

 

Latimer (Bucks) has been known since the 19th century, was excavated by Keith Branigan in the 1960s and was published by him in 1971.

The 4th Century Decline of Latimer Villa

The first signs of decline appear in the middle of the 4th century when the main villa fell into ruin, it was abandoned, but life of a sort continued in a crude long narrow building constructed up against the exterior of the courtyard wall. This sudden reduction in living area c 350 may relate to estate confiscations suffered under Paulus. The last two rooms were finally abandoned c 380-400.

When this building had in its turn fallen into disuse, another little building was erected in the former courtyard of the ruined villa. The crude stone walls formed the foundation for a timber superstructure, and piers projected inwards for supports or for internal divisions.

The first post-villa phase involved a cruck building and another timber structure; three further phases took occupation to 435 or even 495.

Post Roman Rural Life

After the Romans left there was a change in the farm economy. From a mixed economy in which sheep and cow were of equal importance (2nd-4th centuries) there is a marked swing to an economy where sheep are barely represented, pigs become more important and cattle are the main domestic animal. Even more notable is the remarkable rise in the amount of deer hunted and consumed.