Romano-Celtic temple complex at Wood Lane End, 280m SW of Woodwells Farm
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1015490
Date first listed: 01-May-1968
Date of most recent amendment: 31-Jan-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Dacorum (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TL 08235 07882
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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
The preserved remains of the temple complex at Wood Lane End provide a rare and valuable insight into ritual practices in Roman Britain. The size of the complex and the substantial nature of the temple indicate the investment of considerable individual or pooled resources and illustrate the particular significance attached to religion at this time. Archaeological remains, including foundations, surfaces, pits and artefactual deposits will provide further evidence for the dating, method of construction and period of use of the complex, together with information relating to the religious practices and beliefs of the period. Environmental evidence preserved in these features may illustrate the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set. The temple complex is one of a number of Roman sites in the area, including the villas at Gadebridge and Boxmoor (scheduled separately as SM27881 and SM27916) which are thought to have been connected by a series of interlinking roads and trackways, and thus has significance for the study of social and economic conditions during the period of the Roman occupation.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the buried remains of a substantial Romano-Celtic temple
complex situated c.0.6m south east of the junction of Hales Park and Wood Lane
End in the new town of Hemel Hempstead.
The complex was first discovered in 1966 during the laying of a sewer pipe to
the south of nos.102-108 Wood Lane End. Together with a geophysical survey,
limited excavations at that time, and in advance of building work in 1982-3,
revealed an extensive rectilinear temenos (sacred precinct) measuring some 85m
north west-south east and 75m north east-south west. It is thought that the
temenos was enclosed by a buttressed flint and mortar boundary wall, the
foundations of which were traced along the north western and south eastern
sides. An entranceway was located in the south eastern wall. Sections of the
north western wall are preserved beneath the gardens of nos.104 and 106 Wood
Lane End, and are included in the present scheduling.
The largest structure within the temenos was a sub-rectangular temple located
some 0.35m south of no.106 Wood Lane End. The eastern half of this temple is
preserved beneath the garden of no.106 Wood Lane End and is included in the
The temple shared the same orientation as the temenos and was also entered on
the south eastern side. The cella (inner sanctum) of this temple was
constructed from mortared flint with buttressed corners. The substantial
foundations suggest that it may have stood to a height of at least 15m. The
cella was surrounded by an ambulatory (walkway), and contained a vault. This
may have been a favissa (store for sacred offerings). The excavator considered
that it was more likely to have been a burial vault, although no human remains
were discovered during the investigations.
A second building attached to the outer face of the north western wall has
been interpreted as a schola (place of learning), and may have housed a
priest. The northern half of this building is preserved beneath the gardens of
nos.102 and 104 Wood Lane End, and is included in the present scheduling. The
schola, which is thought to have been constructed soon after the wall and the
temple, had four rooms, one of which had an apse to the south west. A second
room was provided with a hypocaust (underfloor heating system), while a third
had an oven. A long porch aligned with the wall is thought to have given
access to the temple via a verandah.
The remains of a rectangular ancillary building were discovered to the south
west of the schola, outside the temenos. This structure, which was
considerably disturbed by subsequent development and is therefore not included
in the present scheduling, may have provided storage space or accommodation
The temenos wall, temple, schola and ancillary building are thought to have
been constructed during the early part of the second century AD. Fragments of
pottery dated to the first century AD have been discovered on the site,
indicating some form of occuption prior to the construction of the complex,
although the nature and extent of this are not known. The complex provided a
place of burial within the temple together with facilities for a congregation.
Funerary rituals in the temple would have been preceded by ceremonies in the
schola where the oven suggests that refreshments were also available.
The complex was elaborated during the mid second century AD by the addition of
a small bath suite just within the entrance to the temenos. The remains of
this building have been destroyed by the housing development and it is not
included in the scheduling. A small square shrine or mausoleum was erected
some 10m south east of, and on the same axis as, the temple. The remains of
this building are preserved beneath the gardens of nos.9 and 11 Crest Park,
and are included in the present scheduling. The shrine was constructed with
buttresses from reused materials, including flint, chalk and stucco, and
strengthened with a tile bonding course. Inside, a central plinth may have
supported a statue or a small sarcophagus.
The excavator considered that, since occupation materials were relatively
sparse, the complex was probably used mainly for ceremonies associated with
the commemoration of particular anniversaries rather than on a day-to-day
basis. He also suggested that it may have been associated with the
contemporary Roman villa at Gorhambury. However, it is equally possible that
the complex was owned by a burial club or guild whose members pooled resources
to provide funerary and ritual facilities for themselves and their families.
It is thought that the complex fell into disuse at the end of the second
century AD, and may have been demolished to provide building materials for the
fortification of Verulamium (St Albans) which was constructed at this time.
After the demolition the area was given over to agriculture and post holes
discovered during the investigations suggest that animal stockades were
constructed over the site of the complex, remaining in use into the fourth
All fences, fence posts, gates, modern walls and structures, man-made surfaces
and garden features are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath all these items is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 27921
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Neal, D S, 'Britannia' in A Sanctuary at Wood Lane End, Hemel Hempstead, , Vol. 15, (1984), 193-215
Neal, D S, 'Britannia' in Unusual Buildings at Wood Lane End, Hemel Hempstead, Herts, , Vol. 14, (1983), 73-86
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