Following the Roman occupation of Britain, an increasing number of rural homes were built across the province. Named ‘villas’ these complexes were in theory the Roman equivalent of farms, however a secondary, perhaps more accurate, definition would be that they were rural dwellings of some pretension, which sometimes had agricultural associations. Built during the mid-1st century AD, Piddington Roman villa is an example of a ‘winged-corridor’ villa, a type of villa that became prolific during the period. ‘Winged-corridor’ villas were formed when nearby buildings were gradually linked to a main villa using a covered corridor to extend the dwelling.
As agricultural dwellings, villas were more than lavish homes, they were also businesses, often requiring the successful production and sale of goods to support those that lived in them – in one complex alone this could include the villa’s owner and his family, servants, overseers and labourers. Remains from Piddington’s final phase of occupation support this view, with evidence of industrial use represented in the finding of iron slag which suggests the presence of an iron working site with furnaces.
Piddington remained occupied throughout the Roman occupation, however quickly fell into disrepair as Rome’s forces were withdrawn in 5th century AD. Evidence of subsequent use during the Anglo-Saxon period has been identified, however this is currently limited to a small dwelling and three burials.
Since the 1970s the site had undergone successive periods of excavation, with each area backfilled once digging has been completed. Whist this means the entirety of the villa is not available to view (new sections are excavated and can be viewed each year), artefacts from the site along with information about the villa can be found at the Piddington Roman Villa Museum.
The site and museum are managed by the Upper Nene Archaeological Society and are open every Sunday afternoon (1st Oct to 31st Mar – 2pm to 4pm, 1st Apr to 30th Sep – 2pm to 5pm). There is an entrance fee, Adult £3.50, Child £2.00, however this gives visitors access to both the museum and the villa site. As Piddington is a very small village, free parking can be found 750 yards from the site at the village hall of nearby Hackleton. Similarly, Hackleton offers a pub and village shop for refreshments.
Council for Independent Archaeology (n.d.) Piddington, online http://www.independents.org.uk/conferences/2012-hackleton/next-conference/piddington
De la Bedoyere, G. (2013) Roman Britain: A New History, Thames & Hudson Ltd., London.
Historic England (n.d.) ‘Piddington Roman Villa’, Pastscape, online https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=343312