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Romano-Celtic temple complex 385m west of Long Common

A Scheduled Monument in Normandy, Surrey

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.2378 / 51°14'15"N

Longitude: -0.6833 / 0°40'59"W

OS Eastings: 492015.993214

OS Northings: 149553.89664

OS Grid: SU920495

Mapcode National: GBR FCD.82Z

Mapcode Global: VHFVL.34MZ

Entry Name: Romano-Celtic temple complex 385m west of Long Common

Scheduled Date: 9 March 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019641

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34293

County: Surrey

Civil Parish: Normandy

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Surrey

Church of England Parish: Wyke

Church of England Diocese: Guildford

Details

The monument includes two Romano-Celtic temples, trackways and other
associated features, situated on the London Clay, north of the chalk ridge of
the Hog's Back, about 1.5km north west of Wanborough village.
The temples, which survive in buried form, were first investigated in 1979,
and subsequent, partial excavation during the 1980s and 1990s revealed that
the site was in use between the mid-first and late fourth centuries AD, and
underwent at least one phase of redevelopment.
The earliest of the two known temple structures is a small circular building,
around 11.5m in diameter, situated on a gentle, north facing slope. The temple
survives mainly as buried wall footings of clay-bonded flint and pebbles,
approximately 0.6m wide, and was constructed during the late first century AD.
The entrance faces east and is reached by way of a metalled passage, about
3.5m long and 2m wide, flanked by metalled surfaces and approached from the
east by a trackway, which survives for a distance of at least 20m.
Evidence for ritual activity prior to the construction of the circular temple,
includes a feature interpreted as the site of a venerated tree, over which the
temple was constructed after the tree had gone, and on which its entrance was
aligned, and a large coin hoard to the south, deposited in about AD 50-60. It
is estimated that the hoard originally contained more than 10,000 mainly
Celtic coins, most of which were lost to treasure hunters in the late 20th
century.
The circular temple was abandoned during the second century AD and was
replaced in about AD 150-160 by a more substantial, square building situated
approximately 10m to the south east, aligned north east to south west, and
partly constructed of masonry blocks with mortared flint and pebble
foundations. The creation of a new temple building appears to have been marked
by a dedicatory deposit of priestly regalia and other votive offerings, to the
west of the building, and partly disturbed by its construction. The offerings
include the remains of several wheel-and-chain head-dresses which, combined
with the evidence for a sacred tree at the site of the earlier temple, where
oaks continue to grow, suggests that the presiding deity of the temple complex
was a form of the Celtic Jupiter, whose most commonly depicted attribute was
the Cosmic Wheel and with whom the oak tree was frequently associated.
Partial excavation suggests that this temple continued to be used into the
late fourth century AD. It had a central, almost square cella, or inner
chamber, measuring up to 8m across, surrounded by an ambulatory, or enclosed
covered walkway, around 3m wide. Material recovered during the excavation has
revealed that the cella was embellished with painted wall plaster and a
tessellated floor of ironstone cubes.
No temenos, or sacred precinct, has yet been identified, although a curving,
metalled trackway, about 7m wide, extends for a distance of approximately 60m
south of the temples before returning towards the north, and may have been
intended for ceremonial purposes. The track terminates at its north western
end, near the site of a former waterhole, with an adjacent, metalled platform,
surviving as a substantial buried feature. Pottery recovered during the
excavations suggests it was used during the late prehistoric or early Roman
period.
Further buried archaeological deposits associated with the temples will
survive in the areas between and around the principal components, and may
extend beyond the area of protection.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences, the modern surface of
Green Lane, and the modern waterpipe which crosses the monument on the
southern side of the track, although the ground beneath, or around, all of
these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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.

Despite the damage caused to part of the site by treasure hunters, the
Romano-Celtic temple complex 385m west of Long Common survives comparatively
well. Partial excavation has demonstrated that the monument not only contains
archaeological remains relating to its development and use over a period of
some 300 years but also represents a unique example in Roman Britain of the
transfer of power from one temple to another. Furthermore, the wheeled head-
dresses recovered from the site are also without parallel and, together with
other items of priestly regalia, represent one of the most significant
collections of religious artefacts to be recovered from Roman Britain, thereby
contributing towards our understanding of the religious practices of the
Romano-Celtic world.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Linford, P K, N T, , Wanborough Roman Temple, report on geophysical survey, 1997, (1997)
O'Connell, M G, Bird, J, 'Surrey Archaeological Collections' in The Roman Temple at Wanborough, Excavation 1985-1986, , Vol. 82, (1994), 1-168
Williams, D, 'Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin' in A Newly-Discovered Roman Temple and its Environs: Wanborough..., , Vol. 336, (2000), 2-6

Source: Historic England

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