‘Things called villas’: countryside around Roman Canterbury (awarded 2022)

Specialist study of materials from surface collection at the ‘Ickham imperial villa’ site and the excavation of the high-status rural settlement at Bourne Park, Bishopsbourne will transform our understanding of rural communities around Canterbury. Comparison to the University of Kent surveys and excavations at Swarling and Blean ‘villa’ sites indicates that the Bourne Park, Ickham, and Wingham sites are of a different character, which more elaborated architecture, grander scale of planning, and complex connections across the landscape.

This project is revealing the intricate interplay between high-status rural settlement and sites of industrial, mercantile, agricultural, and cult activity. The initial results demonstrate continuities from the late Iron Age into the Roman period. These links not only indicate that the Roman-period structures of power and wealth developed from origins pre-dating the annexation into the Empire, but also that the significant changes, adaptations, and choices visible in the landscape were driven by local communities. Our interpretation that these ‘villa-type’ sites had an impact and significance far beyond the confines of what is traditional labelled the ‘site area’ will transform the understanding of landscape organization, power, and the constructions of identity and community in Roman Britain.