Spoonley Wood Roman Villa


Spoonley Wood started as a Romano-British building of the “Aisled Barn or Corridor” type with the long axis aligned NE-SW. There are other buildings of the same style situated at Stroud (Gloucestershire), Norton Disney (Nottinghamshire), Ickleton and Denton (both in Cambridgeshire), Hartlip (Kent) and Bignor (Sussex).

The original “Corridor Villa”, constructed of small, roughly-squared blocks of the local Bath Oolitic Sandstone, was later converted by the addition of two long wings extending to the north-west which were built at each end. This “Winged Villa” was later turned into a “Courtyard Villa” by the addition of an enclosing wall to the north-west which connected the two wings. The same phases of development, from corridor-, to winged- to courtyard-type were also seen in the Roman villa at Folkestone (Kent), but Spoonley Wood is often cited as the classic example of this sequence as it was the first to be discovered, being excavated in the late-1880’s.

Unfortunately the dating evidence from the Spoonly Wood villa is sparse, and the construction dates of the various stages may only be approximated in relation to the phases observed in the Folkestone villa, which it closely resembles. At Folkestone, the original “Aisled Barn” or “Corridor Villa” was built sometime during the late-1st or early-2nd centuries, the conversion into a “Winged Corridor Villa” occurred during the mid-3rd century, and the final stage as a “Courtyard Villa” was achieved towards the late-3rd or early-4th. The Folkestone villa continued to be occupied until around 370AD. It is possible that the Spoonley Wood villa went through these three stages of development at roughly the same time.

Excavations at Spoonley Wood Roman Villa

Structural remains had been noticed in the wood before 1877, but it was only in 1882 that workmen, searching for stone, uncovered one of the rooms of the villa. The site was in the ownership of Emma Dent, the owner of nearby Sudeley Castle, who had a mosaic lifted and moved to the castle. The site was subsequently excavated by the antiquarians John Henry Middleton and William Bazeley. For two years the site lay open, during which time it was damaged by frost, rabbits, and visitors. In response to the damage, Emma Dent chose to partially rebuild the walls, up to 1.8 metres high in places on the east and south sides, and to reconstruct two of the remaining mosaics and cover them with wooden sheds. The huts had become ruinous by 1945, and in 1976 it was reported that “the sheds have now collapsed and the remains are suffering from weather and from the encroaching wood.”

Findings at Spoonley Wood Roman  Villa

Finds from the excavations included a silver-plated bronze bowl, a large number of 3rd- and 4th-century coins, samian ware pottery, iron knives and tools. Most of the finds are at Sudeley Castle. A column base is in Gloucester Museum and three pottery lamps are in Cheltenham Museum.

A marble statue of Bacchus, from a grave, is now in the British Museum.

Roman Roads Near Spoonley Wood Roman Villa

There is a probable road southwards to the Civitas capital of the Dobunni at Cirencester (Corinium Dobunnorum), which possibly continues north-north-west towards the major salt-works of the tribe at Droitwich, but may equally have had Alcester as its northern terminus.

Visiting Spoonley Wood Roman Villa

References for Spoonley Wood Villa

  • The Roman Villa – An Historical Introduction by John Percival (BCA, London, 1971)
  • Britain in the Roman Empire by Joan Liversidge (London 1968); 

Map References for Spoonley Wood Villa

NGRef: SP0425 OSMap: LR163

Roman Roads near Spoonley Wood Villa

Possible Road: N (29) to Droitwich (Droitwich Spa, Hereford & Worcester) Probable Road: S (16) to Corinivm (Cirencester, Gloucestershire)

Sites near Spoonley Wood Roman Villa