The Ridgewell Roman Villa
The Roman site at Ridgewell (TL 7335 4035) lies south of the village in fields to the west of the main road (A1017), about 2¼ miles south-east of the Roman settlement at Wixoe. It was investigated in 1794 when excavations partially uncovered the foundations of a colonnaded villa together with another outlying building situated to the south between the main villa and the nearby river. The villa building had tessellated pavements, painted wall plaster and pottery finds which indicated that the site was in use from c. A.D. 54 until the late-4th century. The villa was totally destroyed during the excavations, all the stone on site being robbed-out and used for local road repairs, but fortunately the antiquarian investigators ensured that the finds therefrom were properly recorded and the excavations reported in Archaeologia : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity (Vol.14, 1808, pp.61-8). (AHDS; NMR_NATINV-379420, EHNMR-637802)
An Iron-Age coin found in the villa excavation is no indication for occupation of the site prior to the advent of Rome, but fragments of animal bones and pottery dating to the Iron-Age recovered from pits within Ridgewell village (TL7340) suggests that there was activity in the area during this period, perhaps lying undiscovered beneath the village itself. The presence of further Roman activity in the area is indicated within the fabric of the Church of St. Thomas and St. Peter at Stambourne nearby (TL 721388), where Roman brick and tile, perhaps robbed from the Ridgewell site, was re-used during the initial construction of the church in the 11th century. (AHDS; NMR_NATINV-379401, NMR_NATINV-379115)
The tessellated floors at Ridgewell were not of sufficient quality or distinctiveness to be included in Anne Rainey’s Mosaics in Roman Britain and, without access to the tract published in 1808 the only other references I can find are second-hand. Dunnett (pp.98-9 & fig.27) gives the floor plan of the villa and suggests that the painted wall-plaster and mortar floors found in the eastern wing indicates the presence here of a bath-building, while Collingwood (p.119) records that the floor plan of the ‘large and luxurious bipartite house at Ridgewell’ was not completely known, but may have resembled the arrangement recorded at Spoonley Wood, with ‘deep wings terminating in apses’. Liversidge (p.262) records an underground drainage system comprising earthenware drain-pipes leading down to the river which is a good indication that the villa was supplied with a source of running water, which in turn lends credence to the claims that a bath-house lay in the eastern wing that remained largely-untouched during the excavations of 1794.
References for Ridgewell
- The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930);
- Britain in the Roman Empire by Joan Liversidge (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1968);
- The Trinovantes by Rosalind Dunnett (Duckworth, London, 1975);
Map References for Ridgewell
NGRef: TL7340 OSMap: LR154?
Roman Roads near Ridgewell