In 2013/14 a programme of geophysical surveys (both resistivity and magnetometry) and limited trial trenching was undertaken by Chris Butler Archaeological Services and the Sussex School of Archaeology to more fully assess the extent, nature and condition of the Roman villa complex which was discovered in the 1970s on ploughed land to the north of Plumpton College. This work was undertaken on behalf of the College and Natural England as part of a Higher Level Stewardship agreement.
During the summers of 2015 and 2016 the Sussex School of Archaeology followed up the evaluation work of 2014 with a new programme of research and training excavations. These investigations fully revealed a winged corridor house, and confirmed that in an earlier form the house had been just a rectangular structure comprising five rooms in a line. The exposed remains of the winged house included a south-facing corridor which fronted a line of three large rooms separated by sub-divided smaller rooms, and terminated at its eastern and western ends in projecting wing-rooms. The front (southern) wall of the eastern wing-room is internally apsidal, whilst its outer face is straight. In contrast the room at the western end of the corridor, which at this point surprisingly continues to the south-west, is not square with the rest of the house.
Much of the large room to the north of the eastern wing-room contains the remains of what is thought to be an inserted rectangular ‘corn-drying’ or ‘malting’ oven. At the other end of the line of main rooms, a pit beneath the floor of the villa yielded sherds from a straight-sided Later Bronze Age pottery vessel which had four applied pierced lugs. Traces of masonry walls abutting the outer face of the western wall of the Roman-period room at this end of the villa demonstrate that further added rooms lie to the west. Evidence for the nature of some of the former flooring in the villa includes finds of both red tile tesserae and small mosaic cubes.
Just to the east of the villa is a concentration of flint rubble which may be the floor of a timber-framed building or perhaps the infill of a building with deeper foundations, such as a bath-house. Dating evidence from the villa complex in general spans the third and early fourth centuries.
The wall-footings and other remains of the villa have now been covered over to protect them from frost damage during the winter months. Further investigations, however, will resume in 2017 when another programme of research and training excavations will take place during late June-July 2017. Those interested in either registering for a training course or working as a volunteer should visit our website or email Sussex Archaeology.