Broadcast 14 March 2004
Videotext Communications was commissioned by Channel 4 to carry out an archaeological evaluation, as part of the Time Team television series, on Castle Hill, Ipswich, Suffolk (centred on TM 61475 24664). A Roman villa was first recorded in the 1850s when mosaics and building foundations were recognised on the site. Subsequent excavations in 1931 by Reid Moir and Maynard, and more extensive work by Brown from 1946 to 1950, revealed building foundations and a bathhouse. More recently an aisled barn and a second bath house were discovered in 1989 by the Suffolk Archaeological Unit on land to the south.
The archaeological evaluation aimed to establish the position of the villa as recorded by Brown within the present landscape, to establish its full extent, including the presence or absence of wings, and to evaluate the present condition of the remains. The work included re-evaluation of existing plans, geophysical survey and 12 trial trenches, some of which were machine excavated. The work was undertaken over three days in April 2003.
The evaluation produced no evidence for side wings to the villa, so providing support for Brown’s contention that it was constructed as a single range. However, attempts to fix his excavation plan to the present landscape were unsuccessful. The evaluation also confirmed Brown’s conclusion that the villa had been heavily robbed for building stone in the past. A number of heavily robbed wall trenches were identified on the eastern side the villa, in one case associated with a layer of burning possibly representing a collapsed wattle and daub wall, while the evaluation trenches to the south of the villa produced a low density of Roman artefacts.
The work also provided evidence as to the current condition of the site, revealing that most of the stratigraphy on the site has been removed by the earlier excavations and that only isolated patches of undisturbed deposit remain. Most of the west end of the villa has been totally excavated, although unexcavated features do exist at the base of the site.