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Romano-Celtic temple and associated remains at Jordan Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Preston, Dorset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.6375 / 50°38'15"N

Longitude: -2.4271 / 2°25'37"W

OS Eastings: 369891.994556

OS Northings: 82069.424778

OS Grid: SY698820

Mapcode National: GBR PY.XQMZ

Mapcode Global: FRA 57TD.08J

Entry Name: Romano-Celtic temple and associated remains at Jordan Hill

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 11 April 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013371

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22960

County: Dorset

Electoral Ward/Division: Preston

Built-Up Area: Weymouth

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Preston with Sutton Poyntz St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument includes a Romano-Celtic temple and associated remains situated
on the South Dorset Downs on Jordan Hill, a south-facing chalk ridge
overlooking Weymouth Bay to the south.
The site was first excavated by J Medhurst during the spring of 1843, when
much of the interior of a structure was uncovered. Further excavations were
conducted by C D Drew and C S Prideaux during 1931-32, in order to clarify
the form and extent of the structural remains.
The excavations suggest that the earliest feature at the site was a large pit,
which underlay the south eastern corner of a later structure. The pit had
maximum dimensions of 1.2m by 0.9m and a depth of c.3.65m, its sides were
lined with roofing slabs set in clay. The fill consisted of 16 layers of ash
and charcoal, separated by layers of roofing slabs arranged in pairs. Between
each pair of tiles were the bones of a single bird and a small bronze coin.
The bird bones included buzzard, raven, starling and crow; the coins included
an example belonging to the Theodosian period (AD 379-395). There were also
two stone cists within the fills of the pit. The earliest, situated at the
base, contained two urns, a sword, a spearhead, a knife, steelyard, bucket
handle, crook and other iron objects. The second cist was situated
approximately halfway within the fills and contained urns, a sword and a
spearhead.
The coins recovered during the excavations suggest that the shaft was
constructed during the earlier Roman period (AD 69-79) and that it was
eventually sealed during the Theodosian period (AD 379-395). The nature of the
deposits from the shaft identify it as having a ceremonial or ritual
purpose.
Overlying the shaft was a structure interpreted as the cella of a Romano-
Celtic temple. This was defined by stone footings up to 2.9m wide, enclosing
an area 6.8m square. Charles Warne recorded in 1844 that Roman pottery and
coins were recovered from within this area. Traces of a thin concrete surface
bounded the external sides of the wall and are known to have been 3m wide to
the south and 2.7m wide to the east. This concrete surface may have formed the
pavement for a structure adjacent to the wall, such as a colonnade or portico.
A limestone base and Purbeck marble Tuscan capital were recovered during the
excavations and these suggest the use of columns c.1.7m high. A record of the
site in 1843 suggests that there was an entrance in the centre of the southern
wall indicated by stone steps.
These foundations are reported to have been located centrally within an outer
square enclosure which was defined by stone walls 1.5m wide, although this has
not been recognised since. Warne recorded this wider enclosure to have been
84m square and suggested that it produced most of the finds recovered from the
site. These include many animal bones, numerous bull horns, Roman pottery and
some 300 Roman coins, mainly from the period of the late Empire, including an
example belonging to the period of Arcadius (AD 383-408). During the later
excavations between 1931-32, a further 177 coins were recovered; 61 of these
belonged to the period AD 388-395, but others dated from the pre-Roman Iron
Age and from the early Roman period, illustrating the earlier ancestry of the
site.
The site was entrusted into the care of the State in 1933 and there is open
public access. The structure is now marked by intermittent stone footings 1.8m
wide and c.0.3m high and a gravel surface which defines the course of the wall
foundations of the building.
The site of the Romano-Celtic temple is associated with a number of other
Roman remains within the area. Approximately 90m to the south east of the
Romano-Celtic temple is a cemetery which was partially excavated by Medhurst
between 1845-46. It is thought that 40-50 urns were recovered and around 90
skeletons were identified within the cemetery. These are known to have
included both cremations and inhumations, one of which was contained within a
wooden coffin. The cemetery was enclosed by a low wall and during the 19th
century it had the appearance of a slightly raised area. The cemetery is
thought to extend over an area of approximately 150m.
Excluded from the scheduling are all posts and gates relating to the modern
field boundaries, although the underlying ground is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Romano-Celtic temples were built to meet the spiritual needs of the
communities they served by venerating the god or spirit considered to dwell in
a particular place. The temple building was regarded as the treasure house of
its deity and priests rather than as a congregational building and any
religious activities, including private worship, communal gatherings,
sanctuary and healing, took place outside.
Romano-Celtic temples included the temple building and a surrounding sacred
precinct or temenos which could be square, circular, rectangular or polygonal
in ground plan. The temple building invariably faced due east and was the
focus of the site, although it did not necessarily occupy the central position
in the temenos. It comprised a cella, or inner temple chamber, an ambulatory
or walkway around the cella, and sometimes annexes or antechambers. The
buildings were constructed of a variety of materials, including stone, cob and
timber, and walls were often plastered and painted both internally and
externally. Some temenoi enclosed other buildings, often substantial and built
in materials and styles similar to those of the temple; these are generally
interpreted as priests' houses, shops or guest houses.
Romano-Celtic temples were built and used throughout the Roman period from the
mid first century AD to the late fourth/early fifth century AD, with
individual examples being used for relatively long periods of time. They were
widespread throughout southern and eastern England, although there are no
examples in the far south west and they are rare nationally with only about
150 sites recorded in England. In view of their rarity and their importance in
contributing to the complete picture of Roman religious practice, including
its continuity from Iron Age practice, all Romano-Celtic temples with
surviving archaeological potential are considered to be of national
importance.

The Romano-Celtic temple and associated features at Jordan Hill survive
largely in the form of buried remains. Where these have been partly
excavated they have been found to include archaeological and environmental
evidence relating to ritual and ceremonial activity in the form of human
burial and votive deposition. Surviving buried remains will further contribute
to our understanding of the monument and the nature of activity that occurred
there.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 617-8
Warne, C, 'Romano-British Remains' in Preston, near Weymouth, , Vol. Part 1, (1884), 185
Warne, C, 'Romano-British Remains' in Preston, near Weymouth, , Vol. Part 1, (1884), 185
Warne, C, 'Romano-British Remains' in Preston, near Weymouth, , Vol. Part 1, (1884), 185
Other
Mention cremations and inhumations,
Mention enclosing wall/ raised area,
Mention stratigraphy destroyed 1843, Champion, S T, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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