Between 1995 and 1997 Surrey Archaeological Society carried out excavations under the direction of Steve Dyer to investigate archaeological evidence revealed when a tree blew over at Cocks Farm, Abinger. The presence of a villa had been known since the 1870s when Roman walls were found during the expansion of a kitchen garden . When well-preserved remains of an east-west range of a Roman building were discovered, the fieldwork was targeted to provide information for the future management of the site and to indicate a suitable area for scheduling as an ancient monument.
Recent research & fieldwork : Roman Studies Group
The annual excavation took place at Cocks Farm Abinger in June-July 2017 under the direction of Emma Corke. Volunteers excavated two trenches in an area of high agricultural activity on the hill adjacent to the known Roman villa site. This area was identified during a magnetometry survey looking at the environs of the villa which uncovered a Roman field system, a Roman lime kiln and a concentration of pits.
An 8th season of excavation in the current project took place in the field adjacent to the known Roman villa. Two trenches were sited to both pick up and clarify features found in 2015 and to explore magnetic anomalies to the NE of the 2015 trench. The smaller of the trenches to the west of the main trench uncovered just the base of the IA enclosure ditch and the lower 60cm of a storage pit, confirming the loss of archaeological features to erosion on the western slope of the field.
Ashtead Roman villa was first discovered in the 1920s and excavated by A. W. G. Lowther and A. R. Cotton, when extensive evidence for a tilery was also noted. Further work was carried out in the 1960s by John Hampton who carried out a site survey; the site had much less vegetation cover than is now the case. Both Lowther’s published reports and Hampton's survey left many unanswered questions aand so a new research programme was initiated in 2006, directed by Dr. David Bird.
A month of excavation took place in June 2015 in the field outside the scheduled villa area. Thanks to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly on the sandy subsoil to uncover evidence for probably two consecutive later Iron Age enclosures on the hilltop, each with large, deep flat-bottomed storage pits surely intended for grain. A number of late Iron Age and Roman ditches were also uncovered and these and the pits validated the findings of the magnetometry surveys undertaken in the field over the last few years.
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who helped to make the latest season at Abinger such a success. It may seem odd to say that in view of our failure to finish the trench, but this was a result of finding that there was more surviving archaeology than anticipated. Much of this must be down to your hard work in tackling the difficulties of finding archaeological features in sand. As a result we have a much better understanding of the site and how to approach it in future.
The final main season of excavation on Ashtead Common was undertaken by the Society’s Roman Studies Group in August and September this year. The ground was very dry at first at the end of the long dry spell, making excavation difficult, but it did allow work in places that would usually have been under water (and indeed were at the end of the dig). The excavation was aimed principally at completing work on the area of the newly discovered building, the Lowther villa and the tile kiln(s).