of the largest villas in Kent, Darenth started out as a home and
evolved into a manufacturing center where woolen cloth
was prepared for market through a process known as fulling.
Inhabited from about 100 CE until the late 300s, the main
residence evolved into a rambling, asymmetrical winged corridor
villa. At its peak in the 3rd century, the villa had more
than 60 rooms. From its central entry, it looked out on a large
414’ x 370’ in
area, that included an aisled hall, a
bath suite, a number of other substantial outbuildings, gardens,
and an ornamental pool.
courtyard was framed on three sides by the villa and measured 42’
by 90.’ It is believed to have been a garden.
3-foot deep, tiled pool, measuring 11 feet by 84 feet, bisected the garden. At the end nearest the villa, archaeologists found a small
fountain spout molded in the shape of a lioness’
head. At the other end
of the pool was a shallower, semi-circular,
lead-lined pool with pipes that allowed water to flow both in
and out. The buttressed walls of this pool were incorporated
into the south wall of the courtyard.
Large pools such
as this are
found at a number of villas in Britain, including Eccles and Gadebridge Park.
view from the main range of the villa looked south over the pool to a roofed
well. Further south was a substantial gateway. A guest walking
through that gateway toward the house would have encountered
impressive garden scene.
the west is an area that showed no sign of paving or partition
walls, and is likely to have been a walled kitchen garden. It
measured 48 feet by 192 feet. Archaeologists found several tools,
including an iron hoe and pruning hooks, that may have
been used in the gardens.
Darenth is located just 60 feet from the banks of the River
Darent, an ideal location because abundant water is essential to fulling,
a process in
which woolen cloth is cleaned, conditioned, and felted.
floorless building south of the kitchen garden contained tanks
and gutters used
A bath suite
was housed in a separate building near the south end of that
building; at one point, it was also used for fulling, but was later
converted back into a bath house. m,
The location of the villa in the floodplain made
drainage particularly important, and substantial cisterns,
drains, and gutters were used to collect, store, and carry water away
from the farmstead, the gardens, and the fulling operation.