What happened to Roman villas in the fourth century? In some parts of the country, notably the area around Cirencester, villas flourished. However in other parts of the country, villas and villa life were disap pearing in the fourth century. Piddington is a good example of this, for in the fourth century, the villa was replaced by a series of small 'family units'.
The Piddington Roman Villa has become one of the best known excavations for volunteers in the country. Throughout the year the Upper Nene Archaeological Society under their Directors, Roy and Liz Friendship-Taylor, excavate every Sunday and in the summer there is a three week continuous dig. This summer they had 65 volunteers in all averaging 45 for most of the sessions - digging, finds processing and planning. Mostly they came from Britain but some came as far afield as Germany, Poland and America. As a result Piddington has become one of the best explored Roman villas in the country.
Piddington lies 6 miles south of Northampton, the villa being situated in the middle of cornfields not far from the village of Hackleton. The Upper Nene started digging there in 1979 when they had just finished digging a Roman barn a mile away at Quinton (now fully published in the Northampton Museum's Journal). They heard that a Roman villa was being dug by the vicar with the aid of his metal detector and they were able t o arrange with the landowner, through the County Archaeologist, to take over the excavations by more orthodox methods.
The villa had been previously located in the 1780s by quarrymen digging for limestone who found a fine mosaic, of which little evidence has survived. In the years since then the Society has found first the main villa building, then the southern wing and
High level view of the south west (top left on plan) corner of the villa. At the centre, towards the bottom, is the cellar shown overleaf, with the private baths just above. The south wing is at the top, while to the left is the curving drain in the courtyard.
CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY 146