McCord Centre for Landscape


Lufton, Somerset: landscape, settlement and change in the first millennium AD

The late Roman villa at Lufton was excavated during the 1950s and 1960s by Leonard Hayward FSA. It is an unusual structure dominated by a richly decorated ‘bath suite’ that some see as a Christian baptistery.

This unusual site is the focus for an interdisciplinary landscape project that seeks to understand the development of this part of Somerset during the first millennium AD.

Located on the periphery of local central places in the Iron Age, Roman and early medieval period this landscape offers a unique opportunity to study the major social, economic and political changes that swept across Britain between late prehistory and the high medieval period.

To date our work has clarified the nature and extent of the partially excavated villa building. It has also uncovered a hitherto unknown settlement and landscape of probable Iron Age / Romano-British date using geophysical survey.

Analysis of documentary and cartographic sources are allowing the complex agricultural exploitation of this landscape to be understood as well as its relationship with the short-lived Norman power centre at Montacute (where William the Conqueror’s half brother built a castle).

Work planned for 2012 includes the targeted excavation of features identified using geophysical survey. This will clarify the date, function and survival of this ancient and unexplored landscape.

Visit the Project Blog for updates.