Broadcast 31 October 2010
In October 2009 an archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ at the site within the village of Litlington in Cambridgeshire. This explored three distinct areas (NGRs 531174 242553, 531250 242452 and 531458 242188) on the south-western edge of the village, with the aim of locating the ‘Litlington villa’ identified and excavated by the Reverend W. Clack in the 1820s, and a nearby Roman walled cemetery known as ‘Heaven’s Walls’, found during quarrying, also in the 1820s. Nothing now survives from Clack’s excavations; his records were lost and the finds sold. Further small excavations over the 19th and early 20th century found further evidence of the ‘villa’, and a recent evaluation by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit just to the east of the presumed villa site found a quantity of Romano-British ceramic building material and wall plaster.
The evaluation carried out by Time Team, comprising ten trenches and eleven testpits, was able to confirm the position of the ‘Litlington villa’, though it was not possible to determine its full extent or layout. Newspaper accounts of the villa from the time of its discovery, describing it as being a very well appointed structure containing 30 rooms and a bathhouse, with many fine tessellated pavements, may be exaggerated, but some painted wall plaster was recovered, as well as significant quantities of ceramic building material, including box flue tiles from a hypocaust, and the remains of some (monochrome) tessellated pavements did survive in situ. In other respects, however, the material culture seems to have been fairly limited in its range; few coins or other metal objects were found, and only one piece of vessel glass. The presumed bathhouse identified during the 19th century was not located.
The position of the ‘Heaven’s Walls’ cemetery was also confirmed, to the south-east of the villa. Here it seems that although 19th century quarrying had been extensive, some remains might still survive – one slightly truncated inhumation grave was revealed, although the remains were left in situ. Further disarticulated human bone was found within the backfill of the quarry pits.
The testpit evidence suggested that further Roman remains may have been destroyed by the housing estate which lay to the north-east of the villa site.