Eaton Roman Villa

 

The Roman Villa field, part of the Ken Hill Estate, lies on a flat terrace north of the Heacham River. The site is long and narrow, restricted by the steep slope of Cemetery Field to the north, and the floodplain, now Sedgeford Carr, to the south. Traditionally providing pasture this field was deep ploughed in 1944, as a response to the need to produce more grain during WW2. Areas of dark soil and scatters of rubble, including tesserae, and flue and roof tile, were found in association with 3-4th C pottery. The site was scheduled in 1975.


Members of the Landscape Group met John Austen, the Ken Hill Estate Manager, when working in the area in April of this year to seek permissions for planned excavations on the Ken Hill Estate. John asked why we are not excavating the villa site; we explained our methodical excavation of Chalk Pit, and the limitations imposed by the scheduling of the site. John readily gave permission for a geophysical survey during the coming season, and agreed to have the field mown. David Hibbitt, of ‘Grid Nine Geophysics’ and a SHARP Committee member, has agreed to carry out both resistivity and magnetometric surveys during the coming summer season. We are in the process of applying for a S42 licence from English Heritage which will allow such non-invasive methods.

 

Hedge Walking

As the area is scheduled we were unable to undertake any survey within the field without permission from English Heritage; however any survey of the surface of the field is likely to be unproductive as the pasture is dense. We decided to explore the north and south hedge bottoms from the adjacent areas: Sedgeford Carr to the south and Cemetery Field to the north (not to be confused with the site of the Pagan AS cemetery, but so named because of the Christian cemetery at Sedgeford Church to the north).

The hedge bottoms provided the only areas of bare soil to examine, largely because of burrowing rabbits. Conditions were difficult due to barbed wire fencing, a prickly hawthorn hedge full of brambles, young nettles and other hedgerow plants. The area of bare and accessible soil varied between grids. The northern hedgerow also holds back hill drift, and soil levels are between 0.7 and I.0 metres higher on the Cemetery Field side.

Method

Members of the Landscape Group met on Sunday April 1st 2012. Weather conditions were good, dry with hazy sunshine. We started at the west end on the north side of the hedgerow between the RV and Cemetery fields. The hedgerow was measured into 5m lengths; starting at TF 69883 36475, and working east. 5 minutes were allowed to examine each area. Surface finds were bagged for later cleaning and recording.

The hedgerow bordering Sedgeford Carr is very overgrown, with little accessible bare soil. There is also a ditch running approximately 1m from the fence. An area of 10m to either side of the gateway was examined, and finds collected and bagged.

The finds were cleaned, sorted and weighed. Some finds need identifying and dating; these will be looked at by Neil Faulkner during the first week of the summer season, 2012. The data will then be entered on a spreadsheet for analysis and archived.

Finds

Quantities of CBM were recovered from both hedgerows; mostly small worn pieces of fabric that varied in colour, texture and inclusions. Such CBM can be difficult to date, but few pieces appeared to be of modern manufacture.
The most notable find from the northern boundary was of a broken Roman tegulum or roof tile. A small piece of possible flue tile was found. Three lumps of slag were also recovered. At least one other piece of CBM appears to be of a similar fabric to the tegulum. The Sedgeford Carr boundary to the south yielded more CBM and two pieces of Roman grey ware.

 

Conclusions

Our finds support the presence of Roman, or Romano-British building in this site. The density of finds adds support to the positioning of structures in the western half of the field.
The presence of slag suggests metal working on this site. An examination of the industrial residues could give some indication of the processes being employed on this site.

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