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Romano-British temple, Iron Age ditches, earthwork enclosure and associated buildings 240m and 370m north of Fosse Barn

A Scheduled Monument in North Wraxall, Wiltshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4905 / 51°29'25"N

Longitude: -2.2576 / 2°15'27"W

OS Eastings: 382208.018582

OS Northings: 176870.940291

OS Grid: ST822768

Mapcode National: GBR 1QM.D1Q

Mapcode Global: VH962.TSBR

Entry Name: Romano-British temple, Iron Age ditches, earthwork enclosure and associated buildings 240m and 370m north of Fosse Barn

Scheduled Date: 15 May 1963

Last Amended: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019637

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34183

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: North Wraxall

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: West Kington

Church of England Diocese: Bristol

Details

The monument, which falls into two areas of protection, includes a Romano-
British temple to Apollo, associated buildings and an earthwork enclosure
dated to the first century AD, at Nettleton Scrub. The complex is centred
around the point at which the Fosse Way crosses a small east-west valley cut
into Oolitic limestone by the Broadmead Brook. The Broadmead Valley is joined
from the south at this point by a small dry valley, known as the Wick Valley
and it is in these two areas that the remains of the buildings are located.
The site is known from two phases of excavation. From 1938-47 an area to the
north of the Brook and west of the Fosse Way was investigated while from
1956-71 a much larger area south of the Brook was dug. The excavations showed
that the site was occupied from the Late Iron Age to the end of the Roman
period in the mid-fifth century AD during which time a temple complex rose and
fell in importance. The excavated area is now covered with earth and there are
no features visible on the ground, although to the north of the Brook, low
mounds either side of a slight hollow way indicate the outline of further
unexcavated buildings.
The earliest features recorded are Late Iron Age ditches on a spur of high
ground between the Broadmead Brook and Wick valleys. These contained pottery
associated with the tribe of the Belgae and it is likely that there was
settlement on this spur previous to the Roman occupation.
The Fosse Way, a major arterial route linking Ilchester and Lincoln, was built
in around AD 47, soon after the Roman conquest of Britain. Here the line is
followed by a modern lane which deviates west from the line of the Fosse to
ease the gradient of the hill and then east to bring the road back to the
original line.
Contemporary with the road is an enclosure also occupying the spur between the
valleys. It is triangular with rounded corners, each side approximately 130m
long and is defined by a series of ditches up to 1.5m wide with a stone
revetment and entrance to the north. The modern road and presumably the line
of the Fosse Way itself crosses the enclosure. Pottery and coins from the fill
of the ditches imply a first century date. It is possible that the enclosure
had a military function relating to the early Roman frontier.
The temple itself was situated on the south bank of the Broadmead Brook. In
its first phase, built soon after AD 69, it comprised a simple circular
shrine. Votive deposits and an inscription suggest that it was probably
dedicated to Apollo. In about AD 230 the shrine was surrounded by an octagonal
podium and precinct wall with a gatehouse but 20 years later the whole
structure was burnt. It was replaced with an octagonal temple incorporating
the remains of the podium. The new temple was more elaborate and comprised an
inner chamber or cella surrounded by eight chambers and enclosed by a covered
walkway. This coincides with the most prolific building period within the
complex and reflects a growing interest in the temple.
By the early fourth century the temple had fallen into a state of disrepair
and was adapted and repaired. Alternate chambers were blocked and the plan of
the building took on a cruciform aspect, possibly reflecting the conversion of
Rome to Christianity.
At a slightly later date, the building was once again used for pagan worship.
A makeshift altar was constructed of reused columns and votive deposits
including a bronze plaque of Apollo were deposited.
After AD 370 a build up of straw, manure, animal bones and household rubbish
imply that the building was being used as a homestead or animal byre.
Disarticualted human bones at the top of the sequence displayed cut marks
particuarly to the neck, implying a massacre at the hands of raiders.
The settlement associated with the temple is situated to the east of the
temple, around the Broadmead Brook and in the northern end of the Wick valley.
It comprises some 28 buildings fronting onto the Brook and roads linking the
temple and the Fosse Way. These include hostels, enlarged as the complex
became more popular, some domestic dwellings, a priest's house and a shop.
During the fourth century, as interest in the temple diminished, the
inhabitants of the valley turned to industry and buildings associated with
bronze and iron smelting as well as pewter casting were built.
When the temple fell out of use completely, dry stone walls were built to join
the remains of the buildings, probably as animal pens. There is no further
evidence of occupation in this section of the valley.
All fenceposts, horse jumps and cattle troughs are excluded from the area of
scheduling although the ground beneath them 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-British temple, Iron Age ditches, earthwork enclosure and
associated buildings 240m and 370m north of Fosse Barn represent a highly
important and complete temple complex whose history can be traced throughout
the period of Roman occupation. The various phases of building and deposits
show that it grew in importance from its conception as a small shrine and
hostel to a busy centre of commerce related to temple visitors and industry.
Excavation has demonstrated that important evidence will survive for the
site's use, despite the extent of previous excavations.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Wedlake, W J, The Excavation of the Shrine of Apollo at Nettleton, (1981)
Wedlake, W J, The Excavation of the Shrine of Apollo at Nettleton, Wiltshire, (1982)
Wedlake, W J, The Excavation of the Shrine of Apollo at Nettleton, Wiltshire, (1982)
Other
Various letters, Priestly W C, Various letters,

Source: Historic England

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