North Leigh Roman Villa, England
This evening, I am reporting on my visit earlier today to the site of a once very high sttus Roman Villa at North Lea, Oxfordshire, England.
Firstly, the round trip journey (by car) was most enjoyable, entailing navigating winding narrow roads passing through lush green undulating landscapes populated by (mostly) honey coloured stone properties. Most of the landscape was agricultural planted with what appears is wheat at an intermediate stage of maturity. Of course, it was the fertile soil which attracted the Romans who used the region as a granary to produce a supply of food to the legions stationed around the Rhine in what is now Germany.
Artist's impression of the villa at it's peak.
North Leigh was once one of the largest in Britain. In the early 4th century AD it had four bath suites, 16 mosaic floors and 11 rooms with under floor heating.
The villa owner(s) probably enjoyed a luxurious life style benefiting from imported goods. The hard work was left to labourers and slaves. The existence of the multiple bath suites points to a considerable extended family in residence.
The villa was abandoned in the early 5th century following the collapse of the western Roman Empire as the Romans abandoned Britain.
Strangely, at this site, archaeologists discovered evidence of a substantial coin counterfeiting operation possibly motivated by the shortage of small change at the time.
Note this villa is considered by archaeologists to be very similar to the neighbouring villa at nearby Broughton which was covered in the Time Team video contained in this post and has yet to be fully excavated.
Image taken through glass of mosaic on site
This large and intricate floor was laid in the mid 4th century AD. It is the best preserved of the 19 mosaics known at North Leigh. Mosaic floors were a visible demonstration of wealth.This is not a highly sophisticated design by Roman standards but may simply reflect the owner's personal tastes.
This particular mosaic was laid over an under- floor, hypocaust, heating system.
Image of present day landscape taken from a vantage point close to the villa.
Video clip of site
This site is not well signposted. The last half mile or so follows a bridleway and must be undertaken on foot. Persons with mobility issues may need assistance.