Broadcast 22 February 2009

Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by Videotext Communications Ltd. to carry out a archaeological recording and post-excavation analysis on an evaluation at Yelnow Villa at Colworth Science Park, Bedfordshire (centred on NGR 497250 259750) as part of Channel 4's ‘Time Team’ television series. Seven trenches were excavated to demonstrate the extent, character and condition of the villa remains. The evaluation has provided a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the Yelnow villa site and the activity in the immediate locale. At least two, and possibly three broad phases of activity were identified. In addition, the unstratified find of a Neolithic stone macehead is of interest, but could not be related to any traces of activity of this period on the site.

The remains of one, possibly two round-houses of probable Middle to Late Iron Age date were revealed, with remnants of stone walling and interior surface. These structures had been heavily truncated, and produced only a small quantity of artefactual material.

The excavated evidence is insufficient to demonstrate continuity between the Iron Age and Romano-British phases of the site, but the villa may have developed from a native predecessor. The round-house(s) lay within a sub-rectangular enclosure, as revealed by the geophysical survey, but as this feature was not excavated it is uncertain whether it was contemporary with the Iron Age occupation or later, or whether it incorporated more than one phase of ditches.

Two areas of increased magnetic response shown by the geophysical survey are considered typical of the response normally associated with villa buildings. The more southerly of the two areas of probable buildings was not investigated, but the five trenches excavated across the northern area, located within what had been identified from previous archaeological fieldwork as the ‘villa field’, did locate structural evidence of that villa, albeit in a very truncated state.

Although the trenches located stone and possibly timber structures we still know little about the character, phasing and footprint of the villa buildings. The results suggest that the stone building was a compact structure, but which incorporated ‘high status’ features such as heated floor areas and painted plaster walls. The chronology suggested by the finds spans the Romano-British period, but with an emphasis on the later period, i.e. 3rd and 4th centuries AD.