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Link to the video about the archaeological dig at Ashtead Common

Watch the video to find out more about the archaeological dig

Ashtead Common is an ancient wood pasture site with over 2300 veteran trees. It has had woodland cover since at least 1600, however, the heavy clay soils over most of the Common would have made it an unfavourable site for settlement and it's therefore likely that the woodland cover remained over much of the pre-Roman period.

Roman villa complex

The Roman villa is located west of Flag Pond and is described as a corridor villa. It had two rows of six rooms behind the corridor, instead of the more usual single row. Associated with the villa (though not part of the Scheduled Monument) are a bath house, tile works and numerous clay pits.

The bath house is about 50m south of the villa and is thought to have been for the use of workers operating nearby kilns. A flint road is also known to have existed, linking the villa with the nearby road of Stane Street. It is likely that active management of woodland and trees on the Common started at this point, if not earlier.

The villa site was first identified in 1924 by A.W.G. Lowther, and excavated by him over the following years. Further work by J. N. Hampton in the 1960s identified the clay pits and some kilns, where a wide variety of tiles and bricks were made. Artefacts found during these excavations and a model of the villa can be found in the Leatherhead and Guildford museums.

Download a plan of the Villa (1.5MB)

Ashtead Common Roman Villa Flue Tiles

​Flue tiles uncovered on Ashtead Common

The villa was heated using an under-floor hypocaust system of hollow flue tiles, through which hot air could move. Smoke and hot air from a central fire moved into space under the floor tiles and then up the hollow flue tiles which lay behind the walls. The flue tiles had intricate decorations rolled into them to help the wall plaster stick.

Many different flue tile designs have been found at the Ashtead Common villa site, including one with a particularly intricate dog and stag pattern - interesting, considering the flue tiles could not be seen behind the wall plaster.

Surrey Archaeological Society have worked in partnership with the City Corporation since 2005 revealing a wealth of detailed information about this large industrial complex and how it linked with other Roman sites in the southeast.  A final report on this work is to be written up in 2013 allowing us to interpret the site for the public. 

All that can be seen today are a couple of spoil heaps that remain from the excavations and the clay pits, visible from Bridleway 33. The remainder of the site is covered in woodland, hiding past lives and a lost world beneath the trees.

 

Earthworks

There is a triangular ditch and bank earthwork to the southwest of the villa about 125m by 180m in size.  Excavation on this earthwork in 2011 indicates that this ancient earthwork may well originate from the Iron Age or even earlier and has then been used by different people throughout time.  Its uses may have included defence and enclosure of animals.

Download a plan of the earthworks here (937KB).  It can be found off Concessionary Ride 2.

Please note: The important historical and archaeological features on Ashtead Common are vulnerable to disturbance, damage, or destruction from treasure hunting and digging. Such activities are prohibited both by national legislation on the Scheduled Monuments and by the City of London Byelaws for the whole of the Common. 

Published:
13 March 2012
Last Modified:
22 May 2018

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