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Houghton Down

Hougbton Down, near Stockbridge, had been dug into in the 1920s, while an early aerial photograph by O.G.S.Crawford showed the villa amid the ploughed-out earthworks of an extensive Iron Age settlement. The site was examined in our Iron Age programme in 1994 and we returned to it again in 1997. Continuity of occupation could be traced from ti,e Iron Age and throughout ti,e Roman period. In the late 2nd century the timber buildings were replaced by a large and impressive aisled hall with its roof supported on eight pairs of timbers resting on large blocks ofgreensand. Later, one end of ti,e ball had been partitioned to form three rooms, and a batb suite was added in the north aisle. The two other buildings nearby, built in the late 3rd century, were much less grand in architectural style. BOtil had begun as simple halls Witll separate rooms at each end - a type of hallhouse distinctive of ti,e Hampshire Roman vernacular.

Whar it all means in social terms is not easy to understand, but we can, I tllink, firmly dispense Witll the idea tbat aisled halls were subsidiary buildings. The sbeer bulk of the Houghton Down hall and the quality of its construction strongly suggest that it was ti,e main residence throughout, serving as a focus for the communal activities of the social group - not unlike ti,e great manorial halls of the medieval period. The partitioning of private rooms and the addition of batlls provided greater comfort for the owners willie still allowing much of the ball to remain as a communal living space.

The twO later hall-houses (Buildings 2 and 3) were far more modest strucmres. One distinct possibility is that they were built as ti,e resident family expanded - perhaps reflecting some kind of division of inheritance and land ownership - or as a kind of granny flat. Social division is to some

The ais/ed structure at the bottom IVas probably the 'residel1ce of the OJJJner of the farm. Note the bath suite i1Jserted into its top left comer. Other buildings lVere smaller nnd simp/a extent supported by ti,e partitioning of the site into discrete lll1its by substantial fences.

The excavation produced little occupation debris to reflect the economy, but a magnetometer survey shows bow the land was divided into ditched paddocks with complex entrances for livestock management. In this location, high on the chalk downs some distance from permanent running water, it is likely that sheep rearing and wool production would have been important.

AbOJ'e. This is one of the later buildings at Houghton Down) aisled Buildi'ng 2) seen here from the nmh east. Was it added to the main building (opposite) as some sort of 'gra'flnyflat)?

HOUGHTON DOWN 1994. 1997 Roman

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