Romano-Celtic temple complex 385m west of Long Common


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019641

Date first listed: 09-Mar-2001


Ordnance survey map of Romano-Celtic temple complex 385m west of Long Common
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Surrey

District: Guildford (District Authority)

Parish: Normandy

County: Surrey

District: Guildford (District Authority)

Parish: Wanborough

National Grid Reference: SU 92015 49550


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.

Despite the damage caused to part of the site by treasure hunters, the Romano-Celtic temple complex 385m west of Long Common survives comparatively well. Partial excavation has demonstrated that the monument not only contains archaeological remains relating to its development and use over a period of some 300 years but also represents a unique example in Roman Britain of the transfer of power from one temple to another. Furthermore, the wheeled head- dresses recovered from the site are also without parallel and, together with other items of priestly regalia, represent one of the most significant collections of religious artefacts to be recovered from Roman Britain, thereby contributing towards our understanding of the religious practices of the Romano-Celtic world.


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


The monument includes two Romano-Celtic temples, trackways and other associated features, situated on the London Clay, north of the chalk ridge of the Hog's Back, about 1.5km north west of Wanborough village. The temples, which survive in buried form, were first investigated in 1979, and subsequent, partial excavation during the 1980s and 1990s revealed that the site was in use between the mid-first and late fourth centuries AD, and underwent at least one phase of redevelopment. The earliest of the two known temple structures is a small circular building, around 11.5m in diameter, situated on a gentle, north facing slope. The temple survives mainly as buried wall footings of clay-bonded flint and pebbles, approximately 0.6m wide, and was constructed during the late first century AD. The entrance faces east and is reached by way of a metalled passage, about 3.5m long and 2m wide, flanked by metalled surfaces and approached from the east by a trackway, which survives for a distance of at least 20m. Evidence for ritual activity prior to the construction of the circular temple, includes a feature interpreted as the site of a venerated tree, over which the temple was constructed after the tree had gone, and on which its entrance was aligned, and a large coin hoard to the south, deposited in about AD 50-60. It is estimated that the hoard originally contained more than 10,000 mainly Celtic coins, most of which were lost to treasure hunters in the late 20th century. The circular temple was abandoned during the second century AD and was replaced in about AD 150-160 by a more substantial, square building situated approximately 10m to the south east, aligned north east to south west, and partly constructed of masonry blocks with mortared flint and pebble foundations. The creation of a new temple building appears to have been marked by a dedicatory deposit of priestly regalia and other votive offerings, to the west of the building, and partly disturbed by its construction. The offerings include the remains of several wheel-and-chain head-dresses which, combined with the evidence for a sacred tree at the site of the earlier temple, where oaks continue to grow, suggests that the presiding deity of the temple complex was a form of the Celtic Jupiter, whose most commonly depicted attribute was the Cosmic Wheel and with whom the oak tree was frequently associated. Partial excavation suggests that this temple continued to be used into the late fourth century AD. It had a central, almost square cella, or inner chamber, measuring up to 8m across, surrounded by an ambulatory, or enclosed covered walkway, around 3m wide. Material recovered during the excavation has revealed that the cella was embellished with painted wall plaster and a tessellated floor of ironstone cubes. No temenos, or sacred precinct, has yet been identified, although a curving, metalled trackway, about 7m wide, extends for a distance of approximately 60m south of the temples before returning towards the north, and may have been intended for ceremonial purposes. The track terminates at its north western end, near the site of a former waterhole, with an adjacent, metalled platform, surviving as a substantial buried feature. Pottery recovered during the excavations suggests it was used during the late prehistoric or early Roman period. Further buried archaeological deposits associated with the temples will survive in the areas between and around the principal components, and may extend beyond the area of protection. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences, the modern surface of Green Lane, and the modern waterpipe which crosses the monument on the southern side of the track, although the ground beneath, or around, all of these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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: 34293

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Linford, P K, N T, , Wanborough Roman Temple, report on geophysical survey, 1997, (1997)
O'Connell, M G, Bird, J, 'Surrey Archaeological Collections' in The Roman Temple at Wanborough, Excavation 1985-1986, , Vol. 82, (1994), 1-168
Williams, D, 'Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin' in A Newly-Discovered Roman Temple and its Environs: Wanborough..., , Vol. 336, (2000), 2-6

End of official listing