Above. Balloon photo of the 1986 excavations showing the courtyard structure. Note the turrets at the corner, the house to one side and the underlying circular structures.
i n which beddin g trenches were dug one year, and filled wit h the spoil of the following year's trenches. This cultivation episode lasted from the Iron Age down int o th e second century AD.
In 1986 they intende d to continue work in thi s area bu t the gravel extraction had been proceeding more rapidly than expected and the other end of th e site, two fields away, was already threatened.
A geophysical survey suggests that the whole site consisted of a number of trapezoidal enclosures separated by trackways radiating from th e villa. The part which was most urgently threatened was the far end of these enclosures, at the other end of the village from the villa. The local metal detector enthusiasts who had been working i n close collaboration with the uni t had already found 400 coins in the field, all of which were accurately plotted. The previous site was therefore abandoned (temporarily)
and they began digging here.
They found th e ends of three of th e enclosures, one uphill, one in the middle and one down by the river. In each case there was underlying Iron Age occupation.
The most interesting enclosure was the central one which ended up as a large walled courtyard, which was very odd indeed. It began life as a roundhouse, which was soon replaced by a rectangular house with a small paved courtyard in front - see photo above. This in its turn was replaced by a more elaborate layout where a hall 10m x 5m stood on the west side of a walled courtyard. At the eastern corners of the courtyard there were square turret-like rooms with a formal entrance in between. It could not have been a very grandiose structure as there was no trace of any tiles or slates, so i t presumably had a thatched roof. Was it some sort of bailiff's house, with the courtyard used for collecting the stock brought
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i n for payment? Among th e finds from other areas were a large number of loom weights, many of them rather small, and Elizabeth Crowfoot ha s suggested that they may have been for weaving flax.
To the west, down by the river there were three circular buildings , bu t on the higher ground there was another unusual building which may possibly be interpreted as a shrine. This was a rather small roundhouse , too small to have been used for a domestic building. In the vicinity a miniature bronze axe was discovered and also a pipe clay Venus figurine. Do these between them add up t o sufficient evidence to call the site a shrine? Interestingly, the axis of the central buildin g points directly t o the supposed shrine i n one direction and the largest of the roundhouses in the opposite direction down by th e river, suggesting that they may have been laid out on a single alignment.
What is the site? The excavator is still inclined to believe that i t should be called a villa. In his previous excavations, notably a t Gorhambury, he has shown that villas are far more complex tha n generally thought, and he argues that if villas generally were excavated on a sufficient scale, many of them would prove to be very extensive production centres. However it is tempting to recall the site at Kingscote in Gloucestershire, where a buildin g was excavated with a fine mosaic which was at first thought to be a villa, bu t which was shown to be part of a very extensive Roman "small town". The problem is a complex one: in his recent book on The Catuvellauni, Keith Branigan points to other sites in thi s part of Northamptonshire, such as Fotheringay and Yarwell, where air photos show villas with extensive villages attached to them. It looks as it Stanwick may turn out to be the site where villa and village finally merge.
Source: David Neal,
Fortress House, Savile Row,
London W1X 2HE