Roman villa and bathhouse unearthed in Kent

Small finds included 3rd- to 4th-century Roman pottery as well as a small number of 4th-century Roman coins.

T he remains of a Roman villa and bathhouse have been revealed near the village of Trosley in Kent during an excavation by Kent Archaeological Society (KAS) and a host of more than 50 keen volunteers.

IMAGE: Kent Archaeological Society

The site was first found back in 2010 when the team from KAS carried out a survey of Google Earth images as part of a larger landscape project studying the inhabitation of Trosley over time. The images showed clear cropmarks detailing two buildings, which appeared to be Roman in morphology. After getting in touch with the landowner, who gave permission for an investigation, they were finally able to put trowel to soil this past September to test whether these were indeed Roman remains. It did not take long for them to find out. They opened three trenches – one over the main building and two over other features – and found what they were looking for just under the topsoil (above).

IMAGE: Kent Archaeological Society

In the first trench – the one laid over the main building – they discovered part of the foundations of a Roman villa, built using local ragstone. Small finds included 3rd- to 4th-century Roman pottery – comprising local coarse ware, Oxfordshire ware, and a few shards of Samian ware – as well as a small number of 4th-century Roman coins. A more unusual artefact has been identified as an amphora-shaped strap-end (right).

The second trench, over the ancillary building, provided even more finds. There they uncovered the foundations of a bathhouse along with a pillar – known as a pilae stack – at least 11 tiles high (they have yet to reach the bottom), which is indicative of a hypocaust (a way of providing underfloor heating throughout the building). Around the base of the stack, they found deposits of soot and ash, suggesting that the system had been used. At some point, though, possibly in the 4th century, it appears to have been backfilled and the bathhouse repurposed. The last trench was positioned over a feature that turned out to be a metalled surface, made of compacted flints and appearing to have connected the bathhouse with the villa.

The KAS team, along with – it is hoped! – another group of eager volunteers, aim to return next year to excavate the site further and provide more information as to its chronology and use.