Many of the rural Iron-Age settlements continued to be inhabited and developed during the Roman period, indeed it is often difficult to differentiate between the periods. For example at Wakerley in the north of the county, during the Roman period, activity continued and indeed increased around the large Iron Age enclosure that lay south of the largely unenclosed settlement. The enclosure was re-defined and extended, and became the focus for corn-drying, pottery firing and iron-working. An aisled barn was built within the enclosure, but most occupation appears to have shifted possibly to a nearby villa. A similar scenario was played out at Weekley, with the addition that a Roman Road was cut oblique across the dominant alignment that had so influenced the development of the Iron Age settlement.
Significant Romano-British towns (victus) developed at a number of sites within Northamptonshire - at sites such as Brackley, Towcester, Whilton, Duston, Irchester, Tichmarsh, Kettering, Ashton, and a major site just outside the county (but on the Nene) at Waternewton. Many of these sites have been damaged either by later Anglo-Saxon redevelopments (such as at Towcester) or by more modern activities such as the extensive quarrying near Kettering.
The known and probable villa sites are densely concentrated along the Nene valley and its tributaries. In places the distance between neighbouring sites is no more that 1km to 2km, although not all were necessarily developed at the same time.
A combination of surface finds and cropmark evidence around a villa at Woodford suggests that it may also have been the focus of associated settlements. South-west of the villa there is a linear arrangement of tightly clustered enclosures, boundaries and pits visible over an area of approximately 4.5 hectares.
Water Newton, Durobrivae, west of modern day Peterborough was where Ermine Street (the modern A1), the main Roman road north from London, crossed the Nene and headed towards Lincoln. It was also the most easterly point before the sea (the wash at this time and into the early Medieval period coming far further inland than today) and was a significant fortress and industrial areas.
Great Addington lies between major iron production sites at Hunsbury (Northampton), near large Roman towns at Irchester, and continuous occupation sites such as Crow Hill; and only a short distance by boat from the major Roman town of Water Newton. The density of villas and their associated estates along the Nene would indicate that the valley as a whole was a net exporter of food, and it would not be unreasonable to see that the Roman villa(s) located near Great Addington benefitted from being able to ship surplus crops up or down the river to the larger Roman towns.
A Roman road also travelled along the valley close to Great Addington is (see below). Therefore the area was probably as densely populated as any rural area of Britain at this time and the Great Addington area would have been just as attractive for settlement then as it has been ever since.
We do not know whether there was a village as such here, but known archaeological finds to date show that there was at least one Roman “villa” on the edge of the village, and a number of other Iron Age or Roman era settlements and associated finds indicate habitation of more than one family group.
The villa(s) at Great and Little Addington would most likely have had main residents - owners or estate managers - plus workers for the fields, to tend the animals, skilled craftsmen, millers etc. These workers - perhaps a mix of slaves and dependent tenants - would not have lived in the villa but in settlements near or on the villa estate. Perhaps we should think of farm worker cottages near, but not too near, the larger villa. These may have been more typical Iron-Age style round houses and perhaps accounts for the mix of the two types of building around the village.
The term “villa” is misleading as we should perhaps think of it more as a large country house or farm, acting as the central location for an estate. We should also think about such an estate being not unlike a modern farm, with a significant number of buildings serving different purposes – human habitation, food storage, tool and equipment storage, etc
An article in the Northamptonshire Mercury from the 1890’s carries a report from Sydney Leveson Lane, then resident of Great Addington Manor, that reads:
“Some interesting excavations have been carried on of late at Ringstead on the sites of the Roman Camp , near the railway station, and of the the Roman Villa about a mile from the station on the old Cotton way. At the camp, pieces of old ironwork, including a horseshoe, and some small bones which might be those of game animals ... were found near the two stone foundations which mark the entrance to the camp (Roman site) on the north-east. The excavations at the Roman Villa have curiously disclosed what is supposed to be the remains of a Christian chapel. The apparent cust of a decorated window has been found, and pieces of painted glass amongst which were fragments of an opaque vitrified material more fitted for a Roman villa than for an English church, have also been discovered.”
Many sites within the Nene valley have produced evidence for continuity from one period to the next and shows that the Roman landscape was often the culmination of the previous thousand years of activity in the valley.
Sydney Leveson Lane mentioned in the Mercury article the "remains of a Christian chapel" however this has never been verified - the site has never been the subject of any archaeological investigation - and it would be a remarkable site if it was the case as there have only been a few such finds in the UK.