11

As noted in the post Are there any ideas as to what the English landscape was like before the arrival of the Angles? , the infrastructure and buildings which the Romans left behind gradually fell apart, mostly abandoned and used as sources of building materials for other constructions. However, this Britain Express article Roman villas in England says

The golden age of the villa in England was in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. After that they fell into disuse or were taken over for other purposes.

The article cites no examples of these villas 'taken over for other purposes' and I haven't been able to find any. I think I've seen a picture of church which actually used part of a wall of a villa (i.e. not rebuilt from Roman ruins), but I just can't remember where (and I could be mistaken).

On the continent, Wikipedia says that

the Italian villa system of late Antiquity survived into the early Medieval period in the form of monasteries

and it appears that the same happened in Spain and possibly France.

This article on the villa at Rivenhall in Essex from Historic England says

It has been suggested that the villa building itself may have been reused as an early church or mausoleum.

but this is the closest I have come to finding anything (note the use of 'suggested' in the text above).

Are there any examples of Roman villas in Britain which were taken over and used for another purpose (monastery or otherwise)?

Note: I'm not interested in examples of stones from Roman buildings being taken from the original cite and reused elsewhere as there are numerous such places.

  • 4
    The problem is actually one of limited dating evidence for the 5th & 6th centuries. This was quite nicely illustrated by the excavation of Withington Roman Villa by Wessex Archaeology.and Time Team. – sempaiscuba Nov 25 '17 at 13:15
  • 1
    @sempaiscuba. I think I saw this episode some years ago. After perusing the assessment pdf (thanks for that), I see your point about the dating evidence. In a way, it's always amazed me that the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons didn't make more use of Roman buildings, though I am aware of the reasons for this. I mean, can you imagine this in the modern context? If people knew that a nearby villa/mansion was abandoned and up for grabs, you'd have small war over it in no time! – Lars Bosteen Nov 26 '17 at 3:54
  • 5
    British History Podcast has an episode in which Jamie discusses that the villa was not useful in the economic system in Post Roman Britain. The Villa was an artifact of economic/industrial assumptions. When that culture vanished, the villa was no longer useful. I can't remember which episode. – Mark C. Wallace Nov 27 '17 at 11:04
  • Appreciate the link. Hopefully I can find the episode you are referring to. – Lars Bosteen Nov 28 '17 at 0:48
  • 1
    FYI Patrick Wyman did a few episodes on this on his excellent Fall of Rome podcasts (and possibly another on his equally excellent Times of History podcast). I unfortunately can't remember which, but if you've hours to spare to go through old episodes both podcasts are well worth listening to. – Denis de Bernardy Nov 23 at 18:03
5

There is evidence of villas in use well after 600AD, When the Pope sent missionaries to Britain between 580 - 640AD, They reported of well organised and well run towns, the people enjoying bath houses, fine food, and many buildings from Roman times still in use, They reported staying in Villas with fine mosaics, during their mission, and a well run and equipped Romanized Army, and still mainly latin speaking Romanized peoples

  • 13
    This looks like a good lead. Do you have sources for this? – Lars Bosteen Aug 12 '18 at 4:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.