Bancroft Roman Villa

In 1967, fragments of Roman pottery were noticed in the banks of Loughton Brook.  This was the first clue to the existence of a Roman site at Bancroft.  Four years later, its position was pinpointed under an extensive scatter of Roman tile, pottery and other material on the ploughed surface of the adjacent field.  Extensive excavation  during the period 1973-1985 revealed the site to be a 4th century Roman villa with an earlier Roman house beneath it.

The first house built at Bancroft in about AD100 was a substantial structure, with limestone foundations supporting timber-framed walls.  The weight of its thatched roof was carried by ten large timber posts.  The interior was very basic with floors of beaten earth and mainly undecorated walls.  There were two rooms at the east end and a corridor on the north side, leading to a bath suite decorated with sea creatures.

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The house remained in use until about AD170, when it was destroyed by fire.  Afterwards the remains were leveled and a new house was constructed at right angles to the original house, on the same site.  It was built entirely of stone, with a tiled roof, and faced onto a cobbled trackway leading to the farm buildings.  Inside there were three principal rooms, one with underfloor heating and a bath suite at the south end of the house.  Floors were of mortar painted red or black, and the walls were also brightly painted.  There may also have been an upper floor.

The people who lived at Bancroft and farmed the lands around it, were almost certainly native Britons who had adopted Roman customs and dress.  They may have been direct descendants of the Iron Age farmers who lived on the nearby hilltop.  It is possible that they sold the farm in the fourth century (AD340) to a wealthy new owner, perhaps a merchant.

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