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Villa
N. Yorkshire, NZ 2202 1520
Holme House

Visible Remains: None

Access: none

The first occupation on the site was a large timber roundhouse sitting in the centre of an enclosure. The occupants started to use some Roman artefacts from the 60s onwards, i.e. before this part of Britain was part of the Roman province, and earlier than the occupation north of the river.

A small rectangular masonry and timber building was built in the northern part of the enclosure, and this was subsequently enlarged so that by the mid second century it was a villa with an apsidal wing and a bath-suite wing. The roundhouse meanwhile was rebuilt in stone. The apsidal wing had painted walls, but most of the decoration was lavished on the bath-suite where the walls were decorated with figured scenes and some of the floors had coloured mosaics. Occupation of the villa and roundhouse ceased in the later second century and the site was then abandoned for a century or more. There is some evidence that the enclosure was re-occupied in the later fourth century but the area where this was observed could not be fully excavated.

The area occupied by the enclosure was destroyed by quarrying in the early 1980s, but before that happened the well at the villa was excavated.

This villa is one of the most northerly known in Britain, and the remains are most intriguing. It would be possible to interpret this as 'Roman' expropriation of an estate with the original owners continuing to live in the roundhouse as the native servants of a new lord. Against this though, is the fact that the roundhouse remains in the prime position in the enclosure with the villa tucked away to one side. There are certainly differences between the artefacts found in the roundhouse and villa, but they do not split neatly between Roman and native.

Equally the bath-suite seems to be the focus of unusual activities. Bath-houses have very distinctive assemblages of finds related to bathing activities. These are missing here. Instead the animal bone, the pottery and the glass speak of major feasts. Though the debris from fast food snacks is often recovered from bath-houses, assemblages pointing to dining on this scale are rare. So though the wing has all the structural features of a bath-house, its owners weren't using it as such. The evidence suggests that far from the development of the villa being the result of some Roman incomer, it was the response of a native aristocratic family to the changing times.

© H.E.M. Cool 2008, “Roman Piercebridge”, Nottingham, Barbican Research Associates, with permission

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Piercebridge Roman Sites
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Roman Road M8 Piercebridge Roman Fort Piercebridge Roman Vicus Piercebridge Pottery Kiln Piercebridge Roman Bridge Manfield Roman Settlement Holme House Pastscape Page Holme House Villa