Earthwork 300m south west of Fair Rosamund's Well, Blenheim Park


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009417

Date first listed: 14-Feb-1995


Ordnance survey map of Earthwork 300m south west of Fair Rosamund's Well, Blenheim Park
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Blenheim

National Grid Reference: SP 43399 16256

Reasons for Designation

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 in Blenheim Park survives well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, function and the landscape in which it was built. This is one of several examples to survive in this area, all contained within the area defined by the north Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch.


The monument includes an earthwork, interpreted as an enclosed Romano-Celtic temple, situated 300m south west of Fair Rosamund's Well, in Blenheim Park. The site occupies a position overlooking a valley to the east which was landscaped to form a large artificial lake during the 18th century. The enclosure survives as a ditch and bank containing an area 19m square. The bank measures 3.5m wide and stands up to 0.3m high on all sides. The outer ditch has become largely infilled over time but is visible at ground level as a shallow depression 2.8m wide. There is a break in the south eastern corner of the earthwork and this may represent the original entrance to the interior. The interior of the enclosure is level although the presence of a coniferous plantation obscures the view. The interior would have contained one or more structures relating to the religious functions of the site. Evidence of these structures in the form of pits, postholes and trenches will survive as buried features. The site is one of a number of Romano-Celtic temples which appear to be concentrated in the area between the River Evenlode and the River Glym. Excluded from the scheduling is the post and wire fence surrounding the plantation, although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 21815

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bond, CJ, Blenheim: Landscape and Palace, (1987)
FAIREY, 8,072, (1961)
PRN 12740, C.A.O., Square Enclosure, (1993)

End of official listing