Roman buildings N of Witchampton Mill
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1002432
Date first listed: 16-May-1963
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: East Dorset (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 99052 06420
Romano-Celtic temple 150m east of Abbey House.
Reasons for Designation
Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day. 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. They are important for contributing to the complete picture of Roman religious practice, including its continuity from Iron Age practices. Despite partial excavation the Romano-Celtic temple 150m east of Abbey House will contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their construction, function, longevity, interrelationships, possible adaptive re-use, agricultural and religious practices and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 17 February 2016. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument includes a Romano-Celtic temple with medieval re-use situated on the floodplain of the River Allen. The features all survive as buried structures, layers and deposits which were partially excavated from 1924-39. The temple is a circular stone built structure with a paved floor and painted plaster surrounded by a concrete gravel walkway. Two inhumations were also found above the circular structure leading to suggestions it might also have been a mausoleum. Its close association with the river implied some form of ‘water’ deity was being worshipped. Adjacent to the circular building is a rectangular structure slightly less well built and interpreted as an annexe or a possible medieval structure which produced some 11th century chessmen. Other finds included pottery including Samian, flue tiles, charcoal, oyster shell and animal bones. The buildings have also been interpreted as having formed part of a minor Romano British villa or agricultural settlement.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: DO 706
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing