Lullingstone Roman Villa is a villa built during the Roman occupation of Britain, situated in Lullingstone near the village of Eynsford in Kent, south eastern England. The villa is located in the Darent Valley, along with six others, including those at Crofton, Crayford and Dartford. Originally built in the 1st century, the house was repeatedly expanded and occupied until it was destroyed by fire in the 4th or 5th century. The villa was occupied over various periods within the Romano-British period, but after its destruction, it is only thought to have been reoccupied during the Medieval Times.
The First Roman Villa at Lullingstone
The First Roman Villa at Lullingstone was constructed in the 1st century, perhaps around 80-90 AD, although, finds and soil horizons, suggest that there may have been earlier occupation on the site. The first known structure is a so-called winged-corridor house, a type of villa-house commonly found in Britain. The villa was built facing the river to the east and on that side a corridor or veranda linked wings on either side of a central living area, of four main rooms. A additional corridor ran along the back of the building. The occupants were most likely wealthy Romans or native Britons who had adopted Roman customs.
A Govenor’s Palace at Lullingstone Roman Villa
Some evidence found on site suggests that around AD 150, but perhaps as late as AD 180, the villa was considerably enlarged and may have been used as the country retreat of the governors of the Roman province of Britannia. Two sculpted marble busts found in the cellar may be those of Pertinax, governor in 185-186, and his father-in-law, Publius Helvius Successus.
A bath suite was built onto the villa-house to the south and was separated from it by a corridor with an external doorway at its western end. This suggested that the bath suite was used by people other than the immediate family of the owner.
The villa produced significant artistic finds including the Lullingstone Victory Gem and the busts.
The Temples of Lullingstone Roman Villa
The Basement Room – Shrine and Christian Chapel
Pagan Shrine or Cult Room – The northern wing room was built over a cellar, or ‘deep room’, which may have been used simply for storage but, judging from the number of access routes from within the house and outside, may have been from its inception a cult room. The room was probably related to the worship of a water deity or the veneration of water nymphs, with a small well or cistern located in the middle of the floor. The room had wall paintings, including a picture of three water nymphs in a niche, which was protected from damage when the niche was later filled with stone and mortar. The two entrances into the cellar from within the house and the east verandah were blocked, and access was now only by steps at the north-west corner of the cellar, which were in turn reached by three sets of steps. Two of these gave access from outside the building on the western and eastern sides, while the third originated within the new northern range. The external access suggests that people from outside the immediate family were involved in the cult practised here.
Christian chapel –In the 4th century a room,the basement room was converted to a Christian chapel or house church, much the earliest known in the British Isles! The chapel chamber was decorated with a chi-rho monogram, one of the earliest Christian symbols, and a set of wall paintings that were interpreted as showing Christians at prayer. In the Anglo-Saxon period, the ruins of a Roman temple-mausoleum on the site of the villa were incorporated into a Christian chapel (Lullingstone Chapel) that was extant at the time of the Norman Conquest, one of the earliest known chapels in the country.
Suspected Romano-British Temple – Lullingstone 1
To the north of the house The portico of this “temple” measured 40 feet square with walls 2 feet thick, the inner “cella” measured 21 feet by 17 feet with walls 2½ feet thick; many voussior-stones of chalk point to a domed ceiling above the cella. The building faced south and was built c.300AD but by c.400 had fallen into decay, its roof collapsed and its furnishings rifled. (Type Ib)
This was a temple only in the sense that the cult of the dead was carried on in it, but as in plan and architecture it is identical with a Romano-British temple, and as such worship of the dead was one of the roots from which the Romano-British temple sprang, Lullingstone is included [among the square Romano-British temples].” (Lewis 1966, pp.2/3)
Possible Circular Temple – Lullingstone 2
This round building, 17½ ft. in outside diameter with walls only 1¼ ft. thick, had a roughly-tessallated floor and an entrance approached by a stairway on the east. The western part of the building held a rectangular area, screened-off from the rest of the interior by a plastered and painted partition, which may have served as a cella or sanctuary; a supposition which is supported by the building’s east-west orientation. This suspected temple lies just north of the stone-built Hadrianic villa and was contemporary with it.
References for Lullingstone Villa
- Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966).
Map References for Lullingstone Villa
NGRef: TQ5265 OSMap: LR177
Roman Roads near Lullingstone Villa
Sites near Lullingstone Roman Villa
- Horton Kirby (5 km)
- Crofton Roman Villa (8 km)
- Springhead (Vagniacis) Roman Town and Temple complex (11 km)
Minor Settlement and Temple Or Shrine
- Titsey Villa (16 km)
Pottery, Temple Or Shrine and Villa
- Battle of Medway (18 km)
- Eccles Claudian Villa (20 km)
Barrow, Roman-Building, Temple Or Shrine and Villa
- Pilgrims' Way (21 km)
- Rochester (Durobrivae) (21 km)
- Maidstone (24 km)
- Billingsgate Roman House and Baths (25 km)
Visiting Lullingstone Roman Villa
10:00 – 17:00