Romano-Celtic temple and late prehistoric midden immediately south of Woodcombe Wood, 1.1km north east of Dairy Farm
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
- Brixton Deverill
- Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
- Kingston Deverill
- National Grid Reference:
- ST 83202 38773
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
Although the Romano-Celtic temple and late prehistoric midden immediately south of Woodcombe Wood, 1.1km north east of Dairy Farm, have been ploughed, the soilmarks and quantity of votive offerings indicate a temple site of some importance. The complex of archaeological deposits surrounding the temple suggests comparison with the midden sites at East Chisenbury, Potterne and All Cannings Cross. The dark colour of the soil suggests a considerable period of occupation, which is borne out by the artefacts which date from the Late Iron Age almost to the end of the period of Roman occupation in Britain.
The monument includes a Romano-Celtic temple on the site of a late prehistoric
midden, all situated on the summit of Whitecliff Down, one section of a ridge
of Upper Chalk on the northern edge of the Deverill valley. The site commands
extensive views over rolling chalk country to the south.
The temple is visible on aerial photographs as a series of soilmarks revealing
the outline of a square building 50m by 50m interpreted as the temenos, or
temple precinct, enclosing the smaller cella or temple chamber. Aerial
photography has also revealed that the temple precinct is located at the
eastern end of a substantial complex of distinct archaeological deposits
represented by darker soil, occupying an area some 500m east to west and up to
250m north to south. This area of deposits occupies the summit of Whitecliff
Down and may extend beyond the area of the scheduling.
To the north west of the temenos is a low oval mound 40m long and 28m wide
surviving as an earthwork. Excavations of this mound and the surrounding area
in 1803, 1893 and 1924 revealed a large quantity of objects including samples
of painted plaster, brooches, fibulae, tweezers, spoons, bracelets and coins
dating from the Late Iron Age to the late Roman period, which were probably
votive deposits. The mound was also found to contain human bone from at least
two individuals, as well as Iron Age and Roman pottery and animal bone, and is
thought to be a midden mound.
Fieldwork in the 19th and 20th centuries revealed the presence of shallow
earthworks, interpreted as hut sites scattered across the area of darker
deposits, together with pottery of Iron Age and Romano-British date. However,
Neolithic stone tools and a Bronze Age axe were also found on the site,
suggesting that that it was in use prior to the Iron Age. When the site was
visited by William Cunnington in 1803 the foundations of the temple buildings
were visible as low earthworks.
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Colt Hoare, R, The Ancient History of Wiltshire: Volume I, (1812), 40
Goddard, E H, 'The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Notes On The Opening of a Tumulus on Cold Kitchen Hill, , Vol. 27, (1897), 279-293
Nan Kivell, R de C, 'The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Objects found at Cold Kitchen Hill, Brixton Deverill, , Vol. 43, (1927), 327-332
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