Warwick high school scores a Roman villa

King’s High School in Warwick is going to have the coolest (in the history nerd sense of the word) campus in the county, possibly in the country, after the remains of large Roman villa were unearthed at its new location on Banbury Road. Archaeologists discovered the villa during a preventative excavation before the construction of the new school building. The wall foundations indicate the villa was more than 28 meters (92 feet) long and 14.5 meters (48 feet) wide making it the largest building seen in the region up until that point. It’s the size of a medieval church.

It was built of local sandstone in the 2nd century A.D. and remained in use into the 4th century. It was not purely residential. Archaeologists found corn drying ovens inside and outside the walls, which suggests the villa performed agricultural duties. On the other side of the structure there are wall divisions that were likely living quarters, so the villa served as both dwelling and workspace. The building was likely part of a larger estate that stretched to the Avon river and the Roman roads.

Caroline Rann, who has been leading the winter-long excavation, added: “Very rarely do archaeologists discover a new villa, and this fantastic building could never have been predicted.

“Thanks to the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation and their construction team, Speller Metcalfe, who have gone out of their way to assist us, we can now start to build a better picture of Roman Warwick.”

Simon Jones, secretary for Warwick Independent Schools Foundation, which runs King’s High and Warwick School, said: “This is an exciting find and an invaluable experience for the schools, with pupils and staff having had opportunities to see the excavations at first hand.

“The county archaeologist’s team have been only too happy to share their enthusiasm and worked with us to ensure the find has not had undue impact on POC progress.

“The find will become part of the history of the new school building and of the foundation as a whole and will, we hope, inspire budding archaeologists for generations to come.”

The school plans to preserve the remains of walls in situ as the campus goes up around it. I hope they do one of those transparent floor things because that would be awesome. As of now, they’re planning to create exhibitions and a portfolio of educational materials for the public and, of course, the lucky, lucky students. There will also be a formal archaeological report released. The first phase of the construction is scheduled to be completed in September 2019.


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Comment by Andrea
2018-02-08 02:19:08

Another cool thing is that Warwick School itself seems to be a millennium old, and according to the article, “King’s High is moving from its site in the centre of Warwick to the same site as Warwick School.” – Warwick, a thousand years ago from a Norman fiscal point of view:

“Waru(u)ic: King’s land and various landholders and burgesses holding dwellings. 24 sesters of honey.”

A Roman sestertius is 0.74m, so whatever “17.76 meter of honey” is supposed to mean, it sounds like a lot. What schools have always been, and probably always will be, is “hard hat area” :hattip: (does ‘sesters’ possibly refer to money?).

PS: Notably, the medieval ‘vicus’ is north to river Avon, while the Roman one (or whatever might have been there, back then) is south to that. Also, the ‘structure’ has been referred to as a ‘barn’ and a ‘villa’, but actually it seems to be both, right?

Comment by Trevor Butcher
2018-02-08 04:26:07

Could it be referring to the monetary value of the honey?

Comment by Andrea
2018-02-08 05:02:49

On ðison geáre wæs Wǽrincwíc getimbrod (This year [i.e. 915AD] was Warwick built.)

There are claims that the name ‘Warwick’ means “dwellings [cf. ‘vicus’] by the weir”. Contrastingly, with [werian = To remain, continue, live] and [Hwiccas or Hwicce], ‘Warwick’ could also mean: ‘Where the kingdom of the Hwicce obviously had a barn’.

“According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the kingdom of the Hwicce was established in 577, after the Battle of Deorham”.

“The territory of the Hwicce may roughly have corresponded to the Roman civitas of the Dobunni. The area appears to have remained largely British in the first century or so after Britain left the Roman Empire”.

“Cassius Dio referred to the tribe as “Bodunni”, probably a misspelling of the Dobunni. Tributary to the Catuvellauni, they capitulated to the invading Romans when Caratacus and Togodumnus withdrew.”

PS: Trev, not only in the ‘Doomsday Book’, but from any fiscal point of view ‘monetary value’ would make sense, I reckon ;)

Comment by Andrea
2018-02-08 05:21:16

Trevor, a “sester” (plural sesters):

– (historical) A liquid measure for honey and wine, between 24 and 32 ounces.

– (historical) A dry measure for grain, perhaps equal to 12 bushels.

Thus, ’24 sesters of honey’ would be 16.33 up to 21.77 kilogram. ..Nothing that my neighbor, who produces his own honey, would be too excited about (provided that the ‘Doomsday Book’ entries are ‘per annum’).

Comment by Susie Bar-Orian
2018-02-08 06:35:04

Wondering what kind of crop was dried in the ovens. If it was speaking about the Americas it would be understood as Indian corn, but what crop would the Romans have been growing and drying there?

Comment by dearieme
2018-02-08 06:49:38


“Increasing levels of co-operation between Warwick School and King’s High School for Girls has led to the joint teaching of certain AS Level and A Level subjects from September 2004, for example drama, physical education and most recently politics. Girls have been also admitted since 2003 to the Warwick School Combined Cadet Force, founded in 1948.”

I can see that it’s probably required for the CCF, wise for drama, and perfectly reasonable for politics. But for PE?

Comment by dearieme
2018-02-08 06:59:41

“but what crop would the Romans have been growing and drying there?”

“Corn” means the local grain crop. In the East of England that would usually be wheat or barley. In Warwickshire you can probably add oats. I don’t know whether the Romano-Britons grew rye. Nor do I know whether they’d use ovens for drying beans.

Comment by Susie Bar-Orian
2018-02-08 07:38:35

I am familiar with the origins of the word “corn”. (although I would assume most Americans are not and wouldnt know that there was no corn or potatoes in Europe before the 1500’s. Nor cocoa. But what crop is grown that needs drying ovens. I was, raised on a farm that grew barley. And now where wheat is grown. What needs to dry in ovens??

Comment by Andrea
2018-02-08 07:51:59

BEER! :boogie:

“Beor”, made from malted barley. An oast, oast house or hop kiln is a building designed for kilning (drying) hops as part of the brewing process. [And after all, who needs flour in Winter?] Square kilns remained more popular in Hereford and Worcester and came back into fashion in the south east in the later 19th Century. In the 1930s, the cowls were replaced by louvred openings as electric fans and diesel oil ovens were employed, a technique the Romans were already ahead of.

Ðæt mon geselle twelf seoxtres beóras – That they give twelve sesters of beer [12 sesters or 12*12 bushel = 5074.43 liter !!! – which, by the way, even impressed my neighbour]. Öl [or ‘ale’] heitir með mönnum, en með Ásum bjór – Ale is called, by men and by gods.

Boiled mead (russ.: “мёд варёный”) is a drink closer to beer, brewed from boiled wort of diluted honey and herbs, very similar to modern ‘Medovukha’.

Comment by Susie
2018-02-08 09:02:40

Thank you Andrea for that great info. Even though my son makes beer, hops are not grown in our area and I am not familiar with their processing. Am more than happy to learn something new every day!!

Comment by Emily
2018-02-08 12:34:07

To Susie Bar-Orian, As an American from New England, yes we are aware that corn, or potatoes in Europe before the 1500’s, nor were there any tomatoes, and assorted other vegetables. The colonists in northern New England, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, outside the limits of Boston, began following the native American lifestyle around 1675. Following the horrific attrocities committed by the Boston Puritans against the indigenous tribes that had been trading with the Bostonians, all the survivors of the King Phillip’s war were sold into slavery and exiled as far south as Jamaica and the Carribean islands. In response to that treatment, colonists intermarried with the tribes, and formed a deep mistrust of ‘flatlanders’, a sense of betrayal, and reluctance to change that is still experienced today. Vermonters actually seceded from the Union and became self-sufficient in protest over the claims of New York and New Hampshire. It is a subtle and nuanced culture here that is not apparent to the casual observer, but has a long history.

Comment by Andrea
2018-02-08 13:27:00

Susie, of course I am just guessing here.

As far as I can tell, however, while honey is not used anymore, hop is still kilned and barley (or other ‘corn’) is malted for beer making, and for both you need heat or ‘ovens’ (there might be other reasons for drying barley).

Also, beer makers tend to get their hops and malts from somewhere else, i.e. that is usually made somewhere else up the production line, and almost certainly not where the ‘beor’ is consumed (smell!).

Consumption sometimes takes directly place where ‘beor’ is after production stored (in a *beór-tún or ‘beer garden’ with a cellar underneath), and back in those days, the ‘time window’ between production and consumption was considerably smaller.

* tún = garden, but also ‘spot’ (cf. ‘town’ or tuin – dutch for ‘garden’), in contrast to wíc (‘vicus’).

The Roman ‘Vindolanda tablets’ from the Hadrian’s Wall contain various letters of correspondence. For instance, the cavalry decurion Masculus wrote a letter to prefect Flavius Cerealis inquiring about the exact instructions for his men for the following day, including a polite request for more beer to be sent to the garrison (which had entirely consumed its previous stock of beer) :confused:

Comment by Susie
2018-02-08 15:44:00

Emily…. No offense intended to those Americans who read this blog and are interested in history. But Most do not know some of these facts. Am I digging the hole deeper? Or should I say, the beer cellar?!
I once drank beer in a pub on the outskirts of Vienna. They had an ancient beer cellar on the premises

Comment by Andrea
2018-02-09 05:13:30

Vindolanda tablet III.628 (F[l]avio Cerali Praef(ecto) a Masclo dec(urione)), here in the postscript it reads: “Cervesam commilitones non habunt quam rogo iubeas mitti”, i.e. Masculus’ fellows or co-milites, i.e. his platoon, ran out of beer (which, of course, asks for immediate action by Cerialis)!!!

Susie, next time you could go out to the countryside (what the ‘outskirts’ once have been). Traditional ‘beer gardens’ are indeed on top of cellars (they call their beer gardens ‘cellar’, i.e. ‘to go atop the cellar’). My favorite one is located on a hill and serves stuff from a family-run brewery -there are 273 breweries in that region- and at least since 1455 it is the same family.

Comment by Emily
2018-02-09 10:10:32

:blush: Sorry, didn’t mean to sound so ‘sensitive’. Beer was created millenia ago, but doesn’t seems to have been a part of Native American culture.

Comment by Andrea
2018-02-09 12:42:34

As far as I know, ‘Native Americans’ did in fact know beer. In South and Central America, for example, ‘Chicha’ is usually fermented (alcoholic) or non-fermented, a beverage usually derived from ‘corn’, grains, maize, or fruit. Even different kinds of fermentation, some of them rather special, are known. There are hundreds of local variants.

The Vindolanda tablet in question is tablet 628 [F[l]avio Cerali Praef(ecto) a Masclo dec(urione)], here in the postscript it reads: “Cervesam commilitones non habunt quam rogo iubeas mitti”, i.e. Masculus’ fellows or ‘co-milites’, i.e. his platoon, ran out of beer (which, of course, asks for immediate action by Cerialis)!!! :ohnoes:

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