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Roman Britain   43AD-450AD
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Abbey Farm Villa, Minster-in-Thanet
Display Contents
Building 1
The Bath house
The Tile Structure

Building 4
Building 6


In 1979 the outline of a winged Roman Villa with additional buildings at Abbey Farm, Minster was  identified in aerial photographs  by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments England.

Aerial Photo

In 1996 with the
kind permission of the farmer Mr. Jack Clifton, the site was adopted by the Kent Archaeological Society as the venue for an annual training excavation.

The excavations were directed by Dr David Perkins of the Trust for Thanet Archaeology between 1996 and 2001 and  Keith Parfitt of Canterbury Archaeological Trust from 2002 until the final
season of excavation in 2004.

Villa Plan 2005

toilet setToilet set including scraper, tweezers and scoop.

The excavations exposed seven seperate structures.  The main villa building and seperate bath house were enclosed within a boundary wall.  Additional structures were found at each of the corners of the  southern end of the boundary wall. A two roomed structure with corridors was located on the eastern side and at least three phases of buildings were located on the western side of the boundary.  A further structure built of tile was located on the north western side of the boundary wall.

The wall foundations were constructed from chalk nodules overlain with pebbles, flint cobbles in mortar, mortared tile and an unusual mud brick wall. Some walls were constructed from large flint nodules laid in a herringbone pattern. 

A late Roman structure consisting of a malting kiln within a post built barn was located south of the main villa building within the boundary wall.  This may have been associated with post holes and pits representing occupation after the main villa was demolished probably at the end of the 3rd century.

Artefacts recovered from the excavations included pottery, painted wall plaster, floor and roof tile, fragments of mosaic, metal artefacts including brooches, tweezers and nails; window and vessel glass and bone pins.


Building 1

The main Villa building consists of an east west range comprising seven rooms. From each end a range of rooms extend south forming the east and west wings. The whole structure was flanked by corridors.
Building 1

The remains of a heated apsidal shaped room was located at the centre of the north side of the building. One of the walls associated with the stoke chamber for this structure was constructed from mud bricks, a material not commonly found in Britiain.

Apsidal room

Painted Plaster
The internal walls of the main buildings had originally been decorated with painted panels including natural scenes, flowers and figurative work as well as imitations of marble and stone.  Many fragments of the painted plaster survived.

Some of the window openings would have been glazed. Fragments of window glass have been recovered during excavation as well as Iron window bars.

window glass
Window Glass from Building 1

Some rooms had floors decorated with patterned mosaic, in other areas a simple red mosaic was formed of fragments of tile.

Lozenge shaped brooch
Lozenge shaped brooch

The Bath House

A small bath house lay to the west of the main villa building. The bath house was originally constructed seperatley but was close enough to be joined to the main building by a corridor.

Bath house plan

Originally the bath house would have comprised seven rooms; sunken cold plunge bath, warm room (Tepidarium), hot room (Caldarium), a cold room (Frigidarium), a dressing room (Apodyterium), a possible hot plunge bath and a furnace room for the hypocaust system of the hot room (Praefurnium), arranged in rows either side of a dividing wall.

Bath house facing east

The bath house had additional drainage channels added; constructed from mortared flint walls, which flowed out to an open ditch through a gap in the boundary wall.


The Tile Structure

On the outside of the wall adjacent to the bath house is a small structure with tile lined channels
The function of this structure is unclear but could be the remains of  building associated with grain processing. 

Tile structure

Box seal

Box Seal Lid

Building 4

South east of the enclosure is a two roomed corridor house with a heated room.

Building 4 plan

Remains of painted plaster, pottery and glass have been excavated from the building.

Building 4

Glass handle
Glass vessel handle from building 6.

Building 6

On the south west corner is a corresponding building which represents at least three phases of builing including at least one heated bath suite and a two roomed structure.

Building 6 Plan

The building had a number of channels for draining waste water down the hill away from the building. One channel leading from the bath suite was lined with tiles and contained a complete section of ceramic water pipe.

Tile lined drain


Adaption and Abandonment

The whole villa site had been heavily robbed and remodeled in the Roman period and has been gradually eroded over the years
through natural and agricultural processes. Most of the walls only survive at sub foundation level although parts of the structure which have been basemented or hypocausted survive to a greater extent.

The pottery indicates that parts of the main villa building and villa complex existed as early as the third quarter of the first century (from AD 50 -70). The Villa buildings underwent a period of remodeling between AD 70 - 130.

Much of the unusable material from the remodeling was dumped in pits and ditches north of the main boundary wall. The included large fragments of painted plaster, large fragments of tegulae and significant quantities of tesserae which would have formed a mosaic floor.

pits and ditches

The villa underwent a third period of remodeling during the second century. The buildings were robbed for their usuable construction materials in the third century. The buildings were robbed for their usuable construction materials in the third century.

The latest structure on the site, a malt kiln dates to the 4th Century.  The two chambered structure was constructed from chalk blocks lined with clay. It probably had a stone floor spanning the chambers and was contained at the eastern end of  a post built barn. The malt produced from grain in the structure may have been used in brewing.

Malt kiln

At the time of construction of the malt kiln, the villa complex had probably become little more than a  farmstead. When the kiln went out of use the site appears to have finally been abandoned.


Further Reading

Boast, E. J., and Moody, G. A. 2002. Abbey Farm Roman Villa. An overview of Excavations 1996-2002. Thanet Archaeological Society

Holman, D. J. and Parfitt, K. 2005. The Roman Villa at Minster-in-Thanet. Part 2: The Iron Age, Roman and Later Coinage. Archaeologia Cantiana Volume CXXV pp 203-228.

Parfitt, K. 2005. The Roman Villa at Minster in Thanet. Part 3: The Corridor House, Building 4. Archaeologia Cantiana Volume CXXVI. pp 115-133.

Perkins, D. R. J, and Parfitt, K. 2004. The Roman Villa at Minster-in-Thanet. Part 1: Introduction and Report on the Bath-House. Archaeologia Cantiana Volume CXXIV. pp 25-49.

Emma Boast
Version 1. Posted 12.03.07

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