Romano-Celtic shrine 540m ESE of South Yardhope


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.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NT 92568 00574

Reasons for Designation

Roman religion had adopted wholesale the classical pantheon of the Greeks. To this the Romans grafted on their own Italic or Etruscan beliefs, frequently associated with fertility and vegetation, and thus with the conquest of Britain (AD 43-410) brought to the province classical deities covering a wide range of functions. The indigenous population of Britain had already evolved a comprehensive mythology of its own, based partly on the worship of natural phenomena and partly on those aspects of life it considered vital - prosperity, fertility, war and death. Roman toleration of native religions enabled the deities of both conqueror and conquered to intermingle by means of a process known as syncretism. The Roman god Mars, for example, originally an Italic deity associated with fertility and untamed woodlands, became linked with Celtic warrior deities such as Cocidius along Hadrian's Wall. In the more Romanized parts of the Empire, formal temples were constructed and could be elaborate structures, but on the fringes of the Empire where pre- Roman traditions were more likely to continue, as well as the more formal Romanized temples, places of veneration also took the form of simple round or rectangular structures which continued the traditions of pre-Roman Celtic shrines. Despite the fact that it has been used in later times and has been excavated, the Romano-Celtic shrine 540m ESE of South Yardhope is well preserved and retains evidence of its original use. The relief carving is a particularly fine one and is one of few known rock cut examples in Northumberland. This carving also illustrates the process of syncretism as practiced in the frontier region of northern England during the Roman occupation.


The monument includes the remains of a shrine of Romano-British date, situated at 300m above sea level, immediately below the summit of a long ridge on the right bank of the Rowantree Cleugh. The shrine is visible as a roughly square, natural chamber formed in bedrock; the east side is assembled from large boulders, leaving an opening 0.45m wide at the north east corner which opens onto a natural gully. The chamber is 2m square and between 1.5m to 2m high. On the north side of the chamber there is a rock cut ledge which originally supported one side of a roof. Immediately to the east of this feature there is a niche 0.4m by 0.15m interpreted as a place to hold a lamp or offerings. On the rock face at the north side of the entrance there is a carved figure 0.32m high and 0.20m wide within a small niche 0.36m high by 0.32m wide. The figure, which is unclothed except for a cap or helmet, stands with feet apart and arms outstretched. It holds a spear in its right hand and a small round shield in its left hand. The style of the figure is that of a Celtic god but the nature of the craftsmanship indicates a Roman artist. The carving has been identified as the local Celtic god Cocidius. The shrine was excavated in 1980 when evidence of human modification of the natural chamber was found. This included tool marks caused by cutting away the bedrock along the west wall of the chamber in order to create a low bench, and an attempt to dress the south door jamb of the chamber. A post hole was also uncovered set into the bedrock floor of the shrine adjacent to the doorway, and a threshold had been created by the laying down of a single layer of small stones. A small hearth was also discovered in the south east corner of the chamber associated with a crude attempt to create a chimney or flue. The excavation also uncovered evidence that the chamber had seen use in modern times.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Charlton, D B, Mitcheson, M M, 'Britannia' in Yardhope. A shrine to Cocidius, , Vol. 14, (1983), 143-53


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

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