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The Archaeology of Wingham

Drainage Trench | Roman Villa

Wingham's Roman Villa

The Roman villa at Wingham lies under the field known as the Vineyard behind Wingham Court (N.G.R. TR 612457). It was discovered by George Dowker P.G.S who carried out excavations during 1881 and 1882. His report was published in two parts in Archceologia Cantiana. xiv (1882), pp.134-9, and xv (1883)  3pp. 51-7. Permission for the digs was granted by the tenant at that time, Mr. John Robinson.
The site was typical for a Roman Villa, being sheltered from the east and north winds, open to the south-west and having a stream of clean water running by, The stream has its source at a spring in Wingham Well and goes on to join the River Stour.
In 1966, Viscount Hawarden  invited Frank Jenkins, M.A., Ph.D., F.S.A. re-excavate the site. His initial report appeared in one hundredth volume of Archceologia Cantiana. c  pp.87-99


Dowker's Excavation

The first traces of the villa came to light on July 22nd 1881. Close to the western edge of the field a bath with internal measurements of 8 ft. 4 in. east to west, and 6 ft. 5 in. The south wall stood to a height of 2 ft 8 inches and was 2 ft thick. The other walls were 18 inches thick.
A number of rooms were identified
Room 1 - The floor and the south, west and part of the east wall were covered with grey and white tesserae to form a mosaic. A drain led through the south west corner of the wall
Room 2 - To the north steps led to a second room with a floor 13 inches above the floor of the bath and measuring 9 ft. 9 in. east to west by 10 ft. 10 in. north to south. Tessellated with   "... a pattern of alternate large diamonds and small squares, with a banded border in dark grey and white ..."  The flint walls were 2 ft thick. A  drain led form the south west corner and two other rooms lie to the north and to the east.
Room 3 - The northern room measured 11 ft 4 in by 11 ft 11 inches and was tessellated with a pattern having a central labyrinth surrounded by a margin of bands of alternating black and white. The walls had been destroyed to the foundations.
Room 4 - The eastern room had a concrete floor with masonry blocks forming a hypocaust that supported a floor of opus-signium. Much  of the suspended floor had fallen , but the tessellated pattern appeared to continue from the adjoining room. The room measured 11 ft. 2 in. North to south and at least 28 ft East to west.  
In the earth among the rubble of the fallen floor were found  "...Upchurch pottery, a coin of Antoninus Pius with a hole bored through it as if to suspend it by, and a minimus* of Constantine."
 Read the Full Text of Dowker's Excavation on line

Jenkins' Excavation

Frank Jenkins excavation ascertained three main factors: 
1. The building was not a villa, but a complete bath house forming part of a villa complex
2. The portions of the building that have been excavated were constructed in several stages
3. The original construction probably took place in the late 1st or early second century
The plan below is copied from  (Archceologia Cantiana. c  p. 89). The rooms described by Dowker are 8 (Room 1), 3 (Room 2), 2 (Room 3) and 4, (Room 4)

(1) The north corridor
The 5ft. 6 in. wide, corridor was entered from outside through a doorway in the north wall and may have ran the length of the entire villa. The floor of was of opus signium
(2) The apodyterium  - (Dowker's Room 3)
This disrobing room,  was mostly destroyed. It measured 5 ft. 6 in. north to south and 16 ft. 6 in. east to west. 
(3) The frigidarium - (Dowker's Room 2)
Measuring 11 ft. 4 in. by 11 ft. 10 in with walls 2 ft. thick and built of yellow tiles bonded with mortar. Evidence of a drain-pipe was found in the south-west corner. 
(4) The tepidarium - (Dowker's Room 4)
The coolest of the heated rooms. The walls were built of the same yellow tiles as the hypocaust over which the room stood, but little remains of them. Warm air would have passed into the hypocaust from the one below the adjoining room via an arched doorway. Heat was allowed to travel up the walls through vents built of square hollow bricks, which were hidden by plaster.  The hypocaust measured 11 ft. 4 in. sq and the tepidarium above it (with its floor supported on pilae) 10 ft. 4 in. sq.
(5) The caldarium
Dry air kept hotter than that of the tepidarium. 10 ft. 4 in. sq it stood above a hypocaust measuring 11 ft. 4 in. sq. The walls and floor had been destroyed, but imprints of the underlying pilae were found.
(6) The hot tank
It is assumed that the hot tank holding water for the bath-house stood above the furnace which measured 4 ft. long west to east, and 11 ft. 4 in. wide.
(7) The stoking-room
This appeared to be entirely below ground level but provided adequate space for the stokers to work being 16 ft. long west to east and 11 ft. 4 in. wide. Dry fuel would also have been stored there. Jenkins found evidence of alterations to the hypocaust system, and believes the debris that Dowker (Archceologia Cantiana., xv (1883), p. 352) found filling the room, may have been deposited during later reconstruction of the building.
(8) The cold bath - (Dowker's Room 1)
See above


It is clear that the villa was  high status. This is not surprising as several Roman roads converged here and the estuary of the Wingham River would have given easy access to the sea and trade routes. Nearby is Wingham Well, whose springs not only supplied fresh water for the occupants of the villa, but would also have had religious significance. There is further evidence of Roman occupation in the area and more may remain , as yet undiscovered.  
The information above is taken from the first reports of the two archaeologists. You can learn more by reading their accounts in volumes of Archceologia Cantiana. Other reports on the history Wingham can also be found in its pages. A copies of all volumes published to date are held in the Canterbury Public Library
* A  small denomination coin minted in Britain and Gaul