Historic Swalcliffe

This evening, my post records an oustanding day spent visiting historic buildings and landscapes, all with around a three mile radius of the small Oxforshire village of Swalcliffe near Banbury in southern England.

The locale is exceptionally rich in history from the Bronze Age (3300 BC to 1200 BC through to Iron-Age, ( 800 BC—43 AD) Roman period (AD43-AD410) , Saxon period (AD410- AD1066) and medieval (1066AD- 1500AD). (All time periods are approximate.)

I was fortunate to be escorted by three highly qualified and knowledgeble local experts.

First call was the Great Barn which was built to store the produce of the manor. Work commenced in 1404 with the oak roof timbers which as living trees probably date back to the 1200s. This building is now listed as an ancient monument and owned by the Oxforshire Buildings Trust. Inside is a collection of farm wagons from days past plus a display of coins, pottery and other finds from local Roman sites.


Great Barn interior

Great Barn exterior

Next to the magnificant church which has 9th century Saxon origins with subsequent embellishments and additions  covering all periods of English ecclesiastical architecture up the 15th century. Unusually a few colourful wall decorations from the pre 1540 Reformation have survived and been restored.

Church interior

Restored wall decoration

Next, into the wonderful countryside where first stop was in intersection where a Roman road (now a farm track) crosses a minor B road. In the middle distance is a hill on which once sat an Iron-Age fortified settlement.


Former Roman road

Landscape view with hill and Iron-Age fort in distance.

Next to a local farming complex where the lid of a Roman era stone coffin has been set up as a seat.This item probably came from the Swalcliffe Lea site as mentioned below. 

Sarcophagus lid

Next we followed farm tracks to a location where scientific research has identified what appears to be an Iron-Age community of round houses.

Site of Iron Age settlement 

Next to Swalcliffe Lea where archaeologists have found evidence of an extensive Romano- British commercial settlement which includes a number of high status residences. 

Site of former Roman villa type residence 

Site of Romano-British commercial settlement

Next we moved on to the recently excavated luxury villa at Broughton which was subject of a Time Team investigation as found in this (1 hour) video. Just walking across the field we picked up a few pieces of Roman era pottery fragments lying on the surface. Close to this site was found a lead lined stone sarcophagus containing the remains a 5ft tall female adult from the Roman period. She is believed to have been very high status. More research on the remains are to be undertaken.   

In it's hey day, around AD350, the Broughton villa was similar to the neighbouring villa at North Leigh.

Artist's impression of North Leigh

 Broughton Villa site

 Broughton Villa site

Site of buried sarcophagus holding remains of high status Roman female.

Fragment of Roman roof tile found on ground surface

Overall, an excellent day with lots of information and images to digest.


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