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LATIMER ROMAN VILLA by Keith Branigan The villa at the height of its prosperity: an imaginary reconstruction by Caroline Waterman.

ONE of the biggest 'growth areas' in Romano-British ar­ chaeology during recent years has been in the study of the late- Roman and immediately post- Roman periods. Towns and villas alike have yielded new information on what happened to these two essentially Roman types of settle­ ment after the last Roman troops had left the island. Naturally the picture which these discoveries provide varies considerably from one region to another for a variety of reasons, but it is now well established that in many areas villas and towns were not destroyed by Saxons as was once thought, but saw a gradual process of aban­ donment and decay. Nevertheless it is rarely that the discoveries in a single town or villa provide a coherent and reasonably full picture of this process taking place, and it is for this reason that the discoveries made in the vicinity of Latimer villa during the last five years have a particular significance. Here it has proved possible to trace the decline of the Romano-British farm through six distinct but seemingly successive phases.

The Romano-British villa at Latimer, Bucks, was one of perhaps five villas built along the valley of the river Chess during the mid-

second century. It succeeded an earlier timber building of 1st century date, which had apparently been occupied and abandoned by Belgic farmers. The villa was wellappointed and it was subsequently expanded and improved. In the late 3rd century it fell into disrepair and was abandoned for a short time, but when it was rebuilt at the beginning of the 4th century it was given an enclosed courtyard and substantial projecting wings.

The first signs of decline appear in the middle of the 4th century and it is tempting to relate the situation at Latimer to that at Gadebridge, only eight miles away, where the evidence for confiscation shortly after 350 is convincing (Current Archaeology, 18, 203). But if Latimer too suffered confiscation, it seems to have escaped more lightly than Gadebridge. While the villa at Gadebridge was demolished, that at Latimer was partially

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