Roman rural sanctuary on Groundwell Ridge, east of Lady Lane


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018496

Date first listed: 02-Apr-2001


Ordnance survey map of Roman rural sanctuary on Groundwell Ridge, east of Lady Lane
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Swindon (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Blunsdon St. Andrew

National Grid Reference: SU 13954 89475


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

Reasons for Designation

Roman water cult sanctuaries are known on the continent particularly from Roman Gaul (France) but are very much rarer in Britain. The urban temple and bathing complex dedicated to Sulis Minerva at Bath is the best known example, while the nearest known parallel in a rural context is the shrine to Apollo at Nettleton Scrubb on the Fosse Way between Cirencester and Bath. The Roman rural sanctuary at Groundwell Ridge has a high survival of visible earthwork remains which are interpreted as representing a formal garden associated with religious water features such as nymphaea, shrines, altars, and a sacred pool approached by a processional way. The suite of buildings at the site has been shown to be well preserved at foundation level with a high quality and range of buildings encountered. The large number of coins recovered, together with a silver hoard, from a relatively small excavation area, strongly suggests that further coins and perhaps votive offerings still lie within the scheduling, while the waterlogged nature of part of the site along the spring-line will lead to good preservation of organic material and artefacts. The monument is located not far from a major Roman road which linked the towns of Calleva (Silchester) and Corinium (Cirencester) and it may have stood near the boundary of the Roman civitates of Atrebatum and Dobunnorum for which these towns were their capitals.


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


The monument, which survives as a combination of earthworks and buried remains recorded by survey and excavation, includes a number of Roman buildings overlooked by a series of artificially created terraces and a sequence of platforms one of which holds the remains of a stone-lined cistern. An east- west aligned road of probable Roman date lies between two of the terraces and further earthworks mark the probably original boundaries of the site on two sides. The monument occupies a position on a steep south west facing scarp, which lies on a Corallian limestone outcrop, at a point where the limestone meets the Oxford Clay giving rise to a number of active springs. The terraces and platforms occur on the slope of the scarp whilst the buildings are found on level ground at its foot. The site is 1km south west of the A419 which marks the course of the former Roman road from Calleva (Silchester) to Corinium (Cirencester). Related features may also exist in areas surrounding the known site, especially to the west or east. A number of buildings have been shown by excavation and geophysical survey to be present in an area about 120m square at the foot of the terraced scarp. At least some of these buildings may have enclosed a courtyard but their southern extent is not precisely known. The walls of these buildings where seen in excavation are constructed of ragstone blocks which have been mortared. Sandstone roofing tile, Roman fired clay tile fragments, and painted wall plaster have been recovered from building debris above the walls. One of the buildings on the eastern side of the scheduling has been interpreted by the excavators as a bath house as it was found to contain a plunge bath. Situated on the scarp to the north of the buildings are a series of visible earthworks which have been the subject of archaeological survey. They cover an area about 340m east-west by 120m north-south and include a series of five platforms which dominate the site and which look down upon the buildings below. The platforms, which extend for an overall length of 150m east-west, are divided from each other by clearly defined linear features. The central platform was found in excavation to be the site of a cistern made of limestone blocks and served by a lead pipe; its siting suggests that it was perhaps part of the furnishings of a water shrine (nymphaeum). Below the platforms are situated a number of artificial terraces which run east-west and other clear earthwork features which are the result of the modification and enhancement of the natural slope. The terraces, some of which are in excess of 240m long, extend no further eastward than a clear north-south bank and ditch which marks the likely eastern boundary of the complex; likewise a length of ditch and a bank provide a further likely boundary to the north. A 6m wide road running parallel to the terrace alignment and below the sequence of platforms may be seen in the form of an agger (raised road surface) flanked by side ditches; an area of softer ground appears to mark its eastern limit. When seen as a whole the plan of the earthworks reveal an extensive site incorporating water features and walkways; marshy ground at the eastern end of the site located in the geophysical survey demonstrates the likely presence of springs which have probably been active since before historical times. Examination of the archaeological remains of the buildings at the foot of the scarp has demonstrated several phases of rebuild and modification and detailed analysis of the coin and pottery finds has suggested a period of occupation lasting from the middle of the second century AD to the fourth century AD. A hoard of third century AD coins, a bullion hoard of silver plate of mid-fourth century AD date, and a large number of coins dating from the 2nd-4th centuries AD were found within the building complex. These finds testify to the former richness of the monument which has received considerable attention and has been subject to limited evaluation excavation since its discovery in 1996. The excavators of the site (Phillips and Walters) have interpreted the area of terraces and platforms as part of a formal garden enclosing at least one nymphaeum with the buildings below providing bathing and other facilities for visitors to a water cult sanctuary based around the springs issuing from the hillside. The name Old Conduit Field given to the area on a 19th century tithe map preserves knowledge of a system of water courses at the time the field was named. All fences, gates and gate posts and all lamp posts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features 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: 29664

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Corney, M, Abbey Mead, Groundwell Ridge, Blunsdon St Andrew, Wiltshire, (1997)
Phillips, B, Walters, B, Blunsdon Ridge, 1997 (BR97), (1997)
Phillips, B, Walters, B, Blunsdon Ridge, 1997 (BR97), (1997)
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Report' in Colchester Archaeological Report 11: Camulodunum 2, (1995), 121-124
Webster, G, 'Transactions of the Bristol and Glos. Archaeological Society' in The Function of the Chedworth 'Villa', , Vol. 101, (1983), 15
Report on the Geophysical Survey, Linford, P, Groundwell Ridge Roman Villa, Blunsdon St Andrew, Swindon, (1996)

End of official listing