Park Street Villa


Site of a Roman villa excavated in 1943, the sequence of occupation of the site is as follows:- Late Iron Age settlement of the area of three phases consisting of oval and rectangular huts, the last phase is dated fron c. 43 AD to 61 AD. The first phase of the villa consisted of a simple rectangular building of five rooms and a cellar and is dated from AD 65 to c.AD 150. In the next phase dated from AD 150-250 a hypocaust, corridor and possibly a tesselated floor were added. By about AD 250 the building had become decayed, however possibly in the early 4th century AD there was renovation with new rooms and hypocausts being added. The villa appears to have been destroyed in the late 4th century AD. Excavations also produced some evidence for Early Bronze Age and earlier Iron Age occupation of the site. This site may have been destroyed by gravel extraction.

Roman villa W of the river Ver and Watling Street, 3.6 km S of Verulamium (q.v.). It was excavated in 1943-45 (dwelling) and 1954-57 (subsidiary buildings). The site was occupied in the earlier and later Iron Age, and the fact that the Roman house was built directly over three successive Belgic structures (the latest, a pair of rectangular huts dated A.D. 43-60) indicates continuity.

Detailed Occupation Phases at the Park Street Site

  1. The first evidence of permanent structures appears around the turn of the first century of the Common Era, when the site was occupied by a ’round-house’ typical of the late Iron-age.
  2. The round house was replaced after a very short period by a rectangular structure of timber and daub with a floor of compacted chalk, measuring 26 x 11 feet (c.8 x 3.4 metres). This building has been identified as a Belgic farmstead of the Catuvellauni tribe. Associated with this dwelling was a pit containing, among other things, a set of iron manacles, implying that slaves were kept here by Catuvellaunian farmers during the immediate pre-Roman period.
  3. The next occupation occurred during early-Roman times, the single phase-II building was replaced by two other rectangular timber structures, one whose roof was supported upon two parallel rows of wooden posts in a so-called ‘basilican plan’. The other hut, although contemporary, was of unknown form and extent. It seems likely that the buildings of this phase were abandoned and perhaps destroyed in the Boudican revolt during Winter 60/61AD; being built of timber, wattle-and-daub, and sporting a thatched roof, it is not surprising that the building was burned down.
  4. By 65AD these site was occupied by a single rectangular building with stone footings, aligned precisely north-south. This has been identified as a ‘cottage villa’, a simple rectangular building of Roman design without corridors or wings, where additional rooms were created by subdivision of the interior (see diagram above). This building consisted of five rooms and incorporated an underground store-room or cellar at the north end, accessible from the outside. It is possible, given the fact that this early Romano-British villa was built on the same site as a series of native dwellings, that it was occupied by the Romanised descendents of the original Belgic inhabitants.
  5. The middle of the 2nd century saw a period of secondary R-B construction at the Park Street site. This entailed an expansion of the existing building, increasing its width by the addition of an extra corridor on its western side, leading to additional extensions on the north and south, one of which contained a bath-suite. Examples of these ‘corridor villas’ were common in Britain from the beginning of the second century. It appears likely, however, that both the northern and southern additions to the phase-IV building were continued for some distance towards the east, creating a ‘winged villa’ or perhaps even a ‘courtyard villa’ with a further north-south aligned wing lying undiscovered to the east of the original R-B building. During this second R-B period the largest room of the original dwelling had an elaborate corn-drying hypocaust inserted into its floor and the cellar at the northern end was made accessible from a stairwell enclosed within the new western corridor.
  6. A third period of R-B construction occurred sometime around 300AD, which comprised new internal subdivisions in both the original ‘cottage villa’ building and the ‘winged villa’ additions of the second century. Another major development of this period was the inclusion of another large corn-dryer in the centre of the west corridor.
  7. Further minor alterations occurred around 340AD.

An early-4th century tile kiln was excavated at 67, Mayflower Road. The main flue was paved with hypocaust pila tiles, many of which were stamped with the letter M. The kilns own output of wall and roof tiles were marked with triple finger-made grooves, though flue tiles were plain.” (Britannia, 1970)

The wood used to stoke the hypocaust at Park Street was primarily Oak and Hazel. Many of the main building timbers and wooden stakes used at Park Street were of Oak. An iron scoop used perhaps to clean out the underfloor heating was found during excavations. Other finds included stores of cereals, in particular, spelt, oats and barley, a folding iron razor (pictured above, right), and other iron artifacts were identified as Romano-British window-latches.

References for Park Street

  • The Roman Villa by John Percival (B.C.A., London, 1981) fig.46;
  • Britannia i 1970 pp.289/90; Britain in the Roman Empire by Joan Liversidge (London 1968);
  • Town and Country in Roman Britain by A.L.F. Rivet (London, 1958).

Map References for Park Street

NGRef: TL138039 OSMap: LR166

Roman Roads near Park Street

None identified

Sites near Park Street Villa