North Leigh Villa


North Leigh Roman Villa was a Roman courtyard villa in the Evenlode Valley about 0.5 miles (800 m) north of the hamlet of East End in North Leigh civil parish in Oxfordshire. It is a scheduled monument in the care of English Heritage and is open to the public.

It was enlarged over time from the late 1st c. AD to the early 5th c. and eventually became a very large, luxurious villa rustica with 19 mosaic floors, and included a large agricultural estate with housing for farm workers and possibly slaves. Life there was very comfortable with access to the best local agricultural products and imported luxuries from sophisticated nearby towns such as Cirencester.

The villa is notable for its 3rd century mosaic in what is believed to have been the dining room. This floor was lifted and relaid in 1929, and is now protected by a purpose built shed.

History of North Leigh Villa

North Leigh Roman Villa in the Iron Age

Excavations found  pre-Roman Iron Age pottery and other features beneath the former south-west range, which indicate that the site was first occupied during the Late Iron Age.

North Leigh Roman Villa in the First Century AD

In the 1st or early 2nd century AD the first villa building was built. This consisted of three buildings, one of which was a bath-house, along the line of what was to become the north-west range.

North Leigh Roman Villa in the Third Century AD

Early in the 3rd century the south-west and north-east wings were added, partially enclosing the courtyard.

North Leigh Roman Villa in the Fourth Century AD

By the 4th century some of the buildings on the north western and south western ranges had been rebuilt and extended. In its 4th century form the villa had 60 rooms built on three sides of the courtyard with the fourth side formed by a corridor in which the gateway was set. The villa was luxurious, including four bath suites, 16 rooms containing mosaic pavements, 11 rooms with plain tessellated floors and another 11 rooms with under-floor hypocaust heating. Further ranges of farm buildings lie to the south west of the main complex, and aerial photographs indicate that the site extended over a large area on the west bank of the River Evenlode.

North Leigh Roman Villa in the Fifth Century AD

The villa was abandoned in the 5th century.

North Leigh Roman Villa today

There are two ranges of the former courtyard arrangement of the villa are visible today. There are several information panels around the site, including a map of the site, showing when the different parts of the villa were built. There is a hut onsite that covers a mosaic.

Excavations at North Leigh Villa

Excavations conducted on site B were completed in 1969 and revealed five phases of construction:

  1. The postholes of a circular timber hut about 12 feet (c.3.7m) in diameter, represented the first building on the site.
  2. In the Flavian period a rectangular stone building of 10 rooms arranged east-west, with a further room attached to each end to form short south-facing wings. This was augmented during the early-2nd century by a corridor along the east, north and western sides.
  3. The house was reconstructed and enlarged in the mid-2nd century at which time it measured about 47 x 137 feet (14.3 x 41.8 m). This building had a channelled-hypocaust fitted in the early-3rd century.
  4. Most of the building was demolished in the mid-3rd century leaving only 5 rooms standing at the west end, which continued in use until the end of the 3rd century.
  5. A small timber shed was erected on the site around 350AD and remained in use until about 430.

References for North Leigh Villa

  • Britannia ii (1971) p.268.

Map References for North Leigh Villa

NGRef: SP374138 OSMap: LR164

Roman Roads near North Leigh Villa

ENE (11) to Alchester (Oxfordshire) WSW (8) to Asthall (Oxfordshire)

Sites near North Leigh Villa