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#Hart Heritage 9 – Romans of the Whitewater Valley Part 2 – Lodge Farm, by Linda Munday

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It was whilst planting young fruit trees in an orchard at Lodge Farm, North Warnborough in 1929 that the owner, Mr P Parsons, came across several tiles and pottery sherds. He decided they looked unusual and took them to Mr Willis at the Basingstoke Museum, who identified them as Roman. (Liddell 1930, 225)

site before excavation crop

Fig 1 – The site of the orchard at Lodge Farm where the Roman tiles and pottery sherds were found. Picture taken just before excavation work was to start. Photo courtesy of the Dorothy Liddell archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust. Copyright Hampshire Cultural Trust.

This came to the attention of Dorothy Liddell, a female archaeologist with no formal training, who had previously done work excavation work at Windmill Hill in Wiltshire. Liddell, had learnt archaeology from her brother-in-law Alexander Keiller, the marmalade magnet who went onto purchase and excavate the prehistoric site of Avebury. (Fox 2000, 67)

She started an excavation at the site in 1929, which was located close to the north bank of the River Whitewater, approximately three miles from its source. There was no Roman highway nearby and it was 8.5 miles north to the nearest large Roman settlement of Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) (Liddell 1930, 225)

River whitewater at Lodge Farm DL Archive crop

Fig 2– The River Whitewater at lodge Farm in 1929 with the excavators dining room in the centre!

The excavation uncovered a seven- roomed building which Liddell interpreted as “a small dwelling” which was later “transformed into baths” which she concluded would have an “adjoining villa of some importance” (Liddell 1930, 225)

Liddell Lodge Farm12 reduced

Fig 3 – Photograph General View looking SE Flue in foreground, Room B behind it. (Note burnt patch on white chalk floor) DL Archive Photograph by Graham and Polden Limited ( Source HFC Vol 10 )

Roman dwellings are usually thought of as being in towns and cities but the majority of Romans, an estimated 90 per cent, did in fact live rurally. Anyone walking along a Roman road in Britain would have come across people living and working everywhere in the countryside. (Millett 2016, 700)

Dorothy Liddell produced excellent plans and drawings of the site. Below is the plan of the Roman bath house converted from a dwelling.

Lodge Farm plan from DL Archive reduced

Fig 4 – Plan of Roman building at Lodge Farm from Dorothy Liddell archive

Areas within the house are numbered A-J. Section A – Originally thought to be the main entrance of the house, this now houses the flue where smoke from the hypocaust or heating system would escape. Sitting behind this in Room B is the fuel store and stoke hole for the furnace. Originally it was a long oblong shaped hall in the Roman house. The furnace is located in section C. This is where the fire was located that provided the underfloor heating for the baths. (Liddell 1930, 226)

Rooms D and F were thought to have originally been a kitchen as there was a well situated between them. They were now the site of the caldarium (heated chambers) and the plunge bath. This can be clearly seen in the picture below. There are stacks of pilae or fire bricks used to support the floor under which heat could circulate. Behind the well is Room F (shown to the right on fig ) where the plunge bath would be located with the well being a possible overspill area. There is a small Room E to the side of these. (Liddell 1930, 227)

Hypocaust and well reduced size

Fig 5– Rooms D (left of well) showing hypocaust and F(to the right of well) showing plunge bath; Room G the lavatorium is where the tree trunk and tessellated pavement are located.

Room G is the lavatorium or washing room which has a drain running from it. Within Room G there is also an area containing a tree stump which is unexcavated and surrounded by a tessellated pavement. This can be seen in more detail in fig  6. Rooms H and J are dressing rooms. Room J having a pink floor.  (Liddell 1930, 228)

Tesselated pavement D L Archive reduced

Fig 6 -Tessellated pavement in room G larger tiles on the right Room F behind. Dorothy Liddell Archive

Almost all Roman style rural houses have been attributed with the Latin name villa, meaning country house. There are about 2000 villa sites, mainly distributed over the southern and eastern areas of England. Lodge Farm being one of these. The villa sites, however, represent just one percent of known Roman rural sites. (Millett 2016, 703)

Apart from Roman pottery sherds a number of interesting artefacts were found on the site. This is the base of a fumed clay pot which clearly has the sign of a an ancient pagan symbol, the swastika, (Liddell 1930, 229)

Swastika on pottery Lodge Farm reduced

Fig 7 – Base of fumed clay pot showing swastika on display at The Willis Museum

There was also a piece of tile with an interesting inscription which has yet to be deciphered. The original exhibition card from the excavation site (fig 10 ) sums up the views of Dorothy Liddell about this artefact.

Lodge Farm tile Willis reduced

Fig 8 – Roman tile with undecipherable writing found at Lodge Farm 1929

inscription on tile drawing DL archive

Fig 9 – Drawing from Dorothy Liddell archive showing copy of the inscription on the tile

Lodge Farm Exhibition label

Fig 10 – original site exhibition card about the tile with the inscription.

1930’s Excavation

In 1930 excavations continued on the site with the discovery of another building 120 feet by 63 feet. Liddell thought this to have been used for “domestic servants or farmhands.”) It comprised of several rooms and appeared to have had a hypocaust or underground heating system. (Liddell 1930, 231) Room L1,2,3 and 4 can be seen in the foreground in fig ?. These were thought to be set outside the main house and be byres or stables.

Liddell Lodge Farm7 reduced

Fig 11 – Looking NE over the house Rooms L1,2,3 and 4 in foreground Photograph Gale and Polden Ltd.

This house yielded a whole range of interesting Roman artefacts including pottery sherds, seventy one Roman coins( mainly from the 4th century), a spindle whorl, bone comb (shown below in fig ) and ironmongery.

comb from Lodge Farm

Fig 12 – Bone comb found in the aisled house on display at The Willis Museum in Basingstoke

A piece of roof tile was also discovered with the tell- tale imprint of a hob nailed shoe or boot. Someone had no doubt stepped onto it in the tile yard before it was dry! This can be seen in fig 13 below.

imprint of hob nail boot Lodge Farm North Warnborough resized

Fig 13 – Clay tile with the impression of a hobnailed book or sandal found at courtyard villa site Lodge Farm North Warnborough 1929-1931

A study has taken place of the artefacts found in this aisled building at Lodge farm. Items of male and female use are not spread evenly which has led some to believe there was a division of the sexes on the site. (Perring 2009, 209) Liddell herself noted how feminine objects such as combs, shuttles and spindle whorls were found in certain parts of the building whilst masculine objects such as spears, padlocks and knives were clustered elsewhere (Liddell 1930, 235-6)

However, there are difficulties with assuming a division of the sexes within the building, as most artefacts were found in middens or rubbish pits and were therefore not in their original setting. (Perring 2009, 12) The rubbish was associated more with its abandonment than use. So, it may just point to there being a large workshop with other domestic rooms in the building. (Perring 2009, 209)

 

Bibliography

Fox, A .2000 Aileen: A pioneering archaeologist, Leominster; Gracewing Publishing

Liddell, D. 1930 Roman House at Lodge Farm, North Warnborough in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club Volume 10 (ed.) 225-236

Millett, M. 2016. By Small things revealed, Rural settlement and society in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain (eds.) Millet M, Revell L and Moore A, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Perring, D. 2009. The Roman House in Britain, Abingdon: Routledge

 

Illustrations

Fig 1 – The site of the orchard at Lodge Farm where the Roman tiles and pottery sherds were found. Picture taken just before excavation work was to start. Photo courtesy of the Dorothy Liddell archive at Hampshire Cultural Trust. Copyright Hampshire Cultural Trust.

Fig 2– The River Whitewater at lodge Farm in 1929 with the excavators dining room in the centre! Dorothy Liddell Archive Photograph by Graham and Polden Limited

Fig 3 – Photograph General View looking SE Flue in foreground, Room B behind it. (Note burnt patch on white chalk floor) Dorothy Liddell Archive Photograph by Graham and Polden Limited

Fig 4 – Plan of Roman building at Lodge Farm from Dorothy Liddell archive

Fig 5– Rooms D (left of well) showing hypocaust and F(to the right of well) showing plunge bath Room G the lavatorium is where the tree trunk and tessellated pavement photo by Gale and Polden Aldershot Dorothy Liddell archive Accession No. A2017.4

Fig 6 – Tesselated pavement in room G larger tiles on the right Room F behind. Dorothy Liddell Archive Accession number A2017.04

Fig 7 – Base of fumed clay pot showing swastika on display at The Willis Museum. Accession No. BWM:1965:1165 Photograph Linda Munday

Fig 8 – Roman tile with undecipherable writing found at Lodge Farm 1929. On display at Willis Museum, Basingstoke Accession no. HMCMS:BWM1965.1156

Fig 9 – Drawing from Dorothy Liddell archive showing copy of the inscription on the tile. Accession A2017.04

Fig 10 – original exhibition card about the tile with the inscription.

Fig 11 – Looking NE over the house Rooms L1,2,3 and 4 in foreground Photograph Gale and Polden Ltd.

Fig 12 – Bone comb found in the aisled house on display at The Willis Museum in Basingstoke. Accession no. HMCMS:BWM1965.1156

Fig 13 – Clay tile with the impression of a hobnailed book or sandal found at courtyard villa site Lodge Farm North Warnborough 1929-1931. Held at Hampshire Cultural Trust Archaeology Collections, Chilcomb House, Winchester Accession No. HMCMS:BWM1965.1156.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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