Kent architecture

Reconstructed Roman-Celtic temple unveiled in Kent

A reconstruction of what has been interpreted as a Roman-Celtic temple has been unveiled in Newington, Kent. Incorporating the original stones, it is 70m from where archaeological remains believed to represent a 1st century AD temple were discovered in 2018.

The reconstruction. IMAGE: SWAT Archaeology.

The square footprint of a flint-walled structure measuring 12.5m by 11.5m was excavated by SWAT Archeology (who also led the reconstruction work) between 2019 and 2021. The foundations were within a square enclosure double ditch in the northeast corner. of the site, and have been interpreted as the interior and exterior bases of a temple, distinguishing its ambulatory from the central cella (which measures 6.75 m by 5.7 m). To the north, inside the enclosure, archaeologists unearthed several deep pits (interpreted as “ritual wells”), containing coins, brooches, pins and pottery, while to the southeast, they located shallower pits containing small amounts of animal bones, possibly placed as offerings. The inner moat has yielded potsherds from the 1st century, and elsewhere at the development site archaeologists have found evidence of Late Iron Age settlement and early Roman industrial activity.

Original shrine. IMAGE: SWAT Archaeology.

In order to preserve the building, now known as Watling Temple, for the local community, the remains were dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt in a publicly accessible space – a process initiated by Richard Thompstone of the Newington History Group, who supported the project. Developer Persimmon Homes facilitated the official relocation of the structure by setting aside an area of ​​land where the temple’s foundations could be rebuilt next to an information board. “In the original temple many nodules of flint had been stolen, but we have made up for the loss of stone which we have recovered from the topsoil above the Roman villas buried at Faversham,” said Paul Wilkinson, director from SWAT Archaeology. “It has the same size and orientation as the original temple building,” he said, adding that the foundation walls were pieced together using a lime mortar mixture, like recommended by the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius (80-15 BC).

Watling Temple is in a landscaped area off Watling Drive, Newington, ME9 7FX.