Romano-British temple, Iron Age ditches, earthwork enclosure and associated buildings 240m and 370m north of Fosse Barn


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Romano-British temple, Iron Age ditches, earthwork enclosure and associated buildings 240m and 370m north of Fosse Barn
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
North Wraxall
National Grid Reference:
ST 82210 76931, ST 82240 76794

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.

The Romano-British temple, Iron Age ditches, earthwork enclosure and associated buildings 240m and 370m north of Fosse Barn represent a highly important and complete temple complex whose history can be traced throughout the period of Roman occupation. The various phases of building and deposits show that it grew in importance from its conception as a small shrine and hostel to a busy centre of commerce related to temple visitors and industry. Excavation has demonstrated that important evidence will survive for the site's use, despite the extent of previous excavations.


The monument, which falls into two areas of protection, includes a Romano- British temple to Apollo, associated buildings and an earthwork enclosure dated to the first century AD, at Nettleton Scrub. The complex is centred around the point at which the Fosse Way crosses a small east-west valley cut into Oolitic limestone by the Broadmead Brook. The Broadmead Valley is joined from the south at this point by a small dry valley, known as the Wick Valley and it is in these two areas that the remains of the buildings are located. The site is known from two phases of excavation. From 1938-47 an area to the north of the Brook and west of the Fosse Way was investigated while from 1956-71 a much larger area south of the Brook was dug. The excavations showed that the site was occupied from the Late Iron Age to the end of the Roman period in the mid-fifth century AD during which time a temple complex rose and fell in importance. The excavated area is now covered with earth and there are no features visible on the ground, although to the north of the Brook, low mounds either side of a slight hollow way indicate the outline of further unexcavated buildings. The earliest features recorded are Late Iron Age ditches on a spur of high ground between the Broadmead Brook and Wick valleys. These contained pottery associated with the tribe of the Belgae and it is likely that there was settlement on this spur previous to the Roman occupation. The Fosse Way, a major arterial route linking Ilchester and Lincoln, was built in around AD 47, soon after the Roman conquest of Britain. Here the line is followed by a modern lane which deviates west from the line of the Fosse to ease the gradient of the hill and then east to bring the road back to the original line. Contemporary with the road is an enclosure also occupying the spur between the valleys. It is triangular with rounded corners, each side approximately 130m long and is defined by a series of ditches up to 1.5m wide with a stone revetment and entrance to the north. The modern road and presumably the line of the Fosse Way itself crosses the enclosure. Pottery and coins from the fill of the ditches imply a first century date. It is possible that the enclosure had a military function relating to the early Roman frontier. The temple itself was situated on the south bank of the Broadmead Brook. In its first phase, built soon after AD 69, it comprised a simple circular shrine. Votive deposits and an inscription suggest that it was probably dedicated to Apollo. In about AD 230 the shrine was surrounded by an octagonal podium and precinct wall with a gatehouse but 20 years later the whole structure was burnt. It was replaced with an octagonal temple incorporating the remains of the podium. The new temple was more elaborate and comprised an inner chamber or cella surrounded by eight chambers and enclosed by a covered walkway. This coincides with the most prolific building period within the complex and reflects a growing interest in the temple. By the early fourth century the temple had fallen into a state of disrepair and was adapted and repaired. Alternate chambers were blocked and the plan of the building took on a cruciform aspect, possibly reflecting the conversion of Rome to Christianity. At a slightly later date, the building was once again used for pagan worship. A makeshift altar was constructed of reused columns and votive deposits including a bronze plaque of Apollo were deposited. After AD 370 a build up of straw, manure, animal bones and household rubbish imply that the building was being used as a homestead or animal byre. Disarticualted human bones at the top of the sequence displayed cut marks particuarly to the neck, implying a massacre at the hands of raiders. The settlement associated with the temple is situated to the east of the temple, around the Broadmead Brook and in the northern end of the Wick valley. It comprises some 28 buildings fronting onto the Brook and roads linking the temple and the Fosse Way. These include hostels, enlarged as the complex became more popular, some domestic dwellings, a priest's house and a shop. During the fourth century, as interest in the temple diminished, the inhabitants of the valley turned to industry and buildings associated with bronze and iron smelting as well as pewter casting were built. When the temple fell out of use completely, dry stone walls were built to join the remains of the buildings, probably as animal pens. There is no further evidence of occupation in this section of the valley. All fenceposts, horse jumps and cattle troughs are excluded from the area of scheduling although the ground beneath them 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:
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Books and journals
Wedlake, W J, The Excavation of the Shrine of Apollo at Nettleton, (1981)
Wedlake, W J, The Excavation of the Shrine of Apollo at Nettleton, Wiltshire, (1982)
Wedlake, W J, The Excavation of the Shrine of Apollo at Nettleton, Wiltshire, (1982)
Various letters, Priestly W C, Various letters,


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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