A Romano-Celtic temple, Iron Age shrine and associated remains 250m north west of Ratham Mill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018354

Date first listed: 29-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of A Romano-Celtic temple, Iron Age shrine and associated remains 250m north west of Ratham Mill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: West Sussex

District: Chichester (District Authority)

Parish: Funtington

National Grid Reference: SU 80895 06418


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 importance.

Prehistoric shrines date mainly to the later Iron Age (300 BC-AD 43) and are usually smaller than Romano-Celtic temples, with an often timber-built, rectangular or circular cella surrounded by an open or enclosed, variably-shaped temenos. Some shrines, such as the example at Maiden Castle in Dorset, are sited within contemporary hillforts or settlements, although others are set apart in more isolated areas. Evidence from excavated examples suggests that the temenos often contained pits within which votive offerings, including pottery, coins, and metal objects, were deposited. Around 20 prehistoric shrines have been recorded nationally, with a distribution confined to south eastern and central southern England. As such a rare monument type, all examples with significant surviving remains are considered to be of national importance. The Romano-Celtic temple, prehistoric shrine and associated features north west of Ratham Mill survive comparatively well, retaining archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their original use. The close association of the earlier shrine and later temple illustrates the continuity of religious practice during the later Iron Age and Roman period, indicating a long-lived sacred place within easy reach of the contemporary regional centres at Fishbourne and Chichester.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a Romano-Celtic temple, an earlier Iron Age shrine, and a group of contemporary linear features representing associated boundaries and roads, situated on a gentle, south east facing clay slope near the northern edge of the Sussex coastal plain 5.5km north west of Chichester. The temple, shrine and linear features survive in the form of below ground archaeological deposits visible as crop marks on aerial photographs. The Romano-Celtic temple building lies near the centre of the monument and is a small, NNW-SSE aligned, square building with outer walls 15.5m long. It takes the form of two concentric compartments, originally housing an ambulatory, or covered outer walkway, enclosing a cella, or inner chamber. Within the cella is a centrally placed square structure which has been interpreted as a vault, pool or plinth. The building's entrance faces the south east and overlooks part of Bosham stream, which is fed by a number of natural springs rising 100m to the NNE, and flows south eastwards past the eastern edge of the monument towards Bosham Channel in Chichester Harbour 2.5km to the south. Sharing the alignment of the temple building is a linear boundary which adjoins its south eastern side. This has been interpreted as part of an enclosing temenos wall. An identically aligned, double-ditched linear feature recorded near the eastern edge of the monument may form part of an associated Roman road or track. Crossing the north western sector of the monument is a south west-north east aligned linear crop mark thought to represent part of the main Roman road between Havant and Chichester. The analysis of sherds of pottery found on the monument indicates that the temple was in use during the late first to third centuries AD. Lying approximately 45m to the south east of the Romano-Celtic temple building, the earlier Iron Age shrine is visible as a NNE-SSW aligned, sub-circular infilled ditch representing its temenos boundary. The temenos originally surrounded an inner shrine structure, which will survive in the form of buried traces. Further buried archaeological deposits associated with the Romano-Celtic temple and earlier shrine will survive in the areas between and around the visible crop marks. A roughly west-east aligned, linear feature which crosses the northern part of the monument is interpreted as the course of a former, post-medieval field boundary.

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: 31391

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
King, A, Soffe, G, 'Britannia' in A Romano-Celtic Temple At Ratham Mill, Funtington, West Sussex, , Vol. 14, (1983), 264-266
Southern Archaeology, (1990)

End of official listing