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The site of the Roman villa, on the W bank of the Darent river 9.6 km S of Dartford, was first recorded in the 18th c. and excavated in 1949-60. Pre-Roman occupation is attested by finds of pottery and of two coins, but the earliest Roman buildings date from the late 1st c.

The first house was a simple but well-constructed building (at least 21 m N-S x 13.5 E-W) with a projection at the N end and incorporating a cellar. A small circular temple, 4.5 m in diameter, was added at the beginning of the 2d c. on a terrace behind the house. Towards the end of the 2d c. the house was substantially modified by the addition of a suite of baths at the S end and by the conversion of the cellar, now decorated with a painting of three water nymphs, to ritual use. At the same time a second cult room, with a plan similar to that of a small Romano-Celtic temple and with a central receptacle for water, was added N of the cellar; tiled steps led down to these cult rooms. Finally, a detached kitchen (9 x 6 m) containing two ovens, was built 3 m behind the center of the house; it was erected over the foundation burial of an infant. This second and richer phase appears to have been of short duration for, although the kitchen was converted into a tannery, the main house lay derelict from ca. 220.

When occupation was resumed ca. 280 much rebuilding was necessary: the baths were refloored and substantial alterations made to the N end of the house, the stairs to the cellar were blocked, and in part replaced by a hypocaust which also obliterated the second cult room; the cellar itself, redecorated, became the repository for two marble busts, possibly portraits of the earlier 2d c. occupants. Also in the late 3d c. a large granary (24 x 10.5 m) with elaborate underfloor ventilation, was erected S of the house.

Occupation was continuous throughout the 4th c., but further additions and alterations were made. A temple mausoleum, similar to a normal Romano-Celtic temple but containing the burials of a young man and a young woman in lead coffins, was built on a terrace behind the house, S of the earlier circular temple, which was then dismantled. In the house, an apsidal triclinium was built into the W side and both there and in the adjoining room figured mosaics were laid—in the former, Europa and the Bull (with the inscription INVIDA SI TAURI VIDISSET IUNO NATATUS / IUSTIUS AEOLIAS ISSET AD USQUE DOMOS), in the latter, Bellerophon slaying the Chimera.

Later still (ca. 360-370) the room over the cellar was converted into a Christian chapel, approached through an antechamber and a vestibule with a separate entrance on the N side of the house. The chapel was identified by piecing together the wall plaster which had fallen into the cellar below. Reassembly of the fragments showed that one wall of the chapel had been decorated with a frieze of orantes standing between pillars, while a second wall of the chapel and one of the antechamber each had a design of a Chi-Rho surrounded by a floral wreath. Shortly afterwards the baths were dismantled and the granary reduced to a cart-standing, but the Christian rooms at least continued in use until the early 5th c. when the house was finally destroyed by fire.

Lullingstone does not compare in size with the great houses of the Cotswolds (cf. North Leigh, Chedworth, Woodchester), nor even with neighboring Darenth, but it may be taken as typical of the second class of British villas and has been more thoroughly examined than any other. The religious aspects are of especial interest, and the recovery of the designs on the wall plaster was an important development in archaeological technique. The remains are in the care of the Department of the Environment and substantial parts of the house are open to inspection.


Excavation reports: G. W. Meates, Archaeologia Cantiana 63 (1950) 1-49; 65 (1952) 26-78; 66 (1954) 15-36; 70 (1956) 249-50; id., Lullingstone Roman Villa (1955); mausoleum: id., JRS 49 (1959) 132-33P; temple: id., JRS 51 (1961) 189-90; site guide: id., Lullingstone Roman Villa (1963); wall-plaster: K. S. Painter, BMQ 33 (1968-69) 131-50; mosaics: D. J. Smith in A.L.F. Rivet, ed., The Roman Villa in Britain (1969) 117-18; J.M.C. Toynbee, Art in Roman Britain2 (1963) 200-1; busts: ibid. 126-28; Christian aspects: id. in M. W. Barley & R.P.C. Hanson, eds., Christianity in Britain 300-700 (1968) 177-92.


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