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The Romano-Celtic temple, named the Watling Temple, will be moved from the construction site and rebuilt in the village. Source: Newington History Group / Facebook .

Local Historians To Rebuild A 2000-year-old Romano-Celtic Temple

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A group of local history enthusiasts in Britain have announced an amazing project. They have secured permission to rebuild a 2000-year-old Romano- Celtic temple. The remains of the place of worship were going to be buried beneath a construction site, but the historians have saved them from destruction. The group have great plans for the temple and want to rebuild it and preserve it for the community.

A Long-Lost Roman Town Uncovered

Last April, archaeologists, from SWAT Archaeology, were digging at the site of a major housing development near the village of Newington, Kent in southeast England. They had been alerted to some finds by construction workers and what they found was amazing. The archaeologists had unearthed a long-lost Roman town and industrial center and their discovery is one of the most important in the area for decades.

According to Brinkwire “The 18-acre (7.3 hectares) site was in exceptional condition”. The experts came across pottery kilns and literally tons of pottery shards. Also unearthed were, iron furnaces, and buildings used to store and dry crops.

Discovered at the excavation in Newington, the site of the Watling Temple. (Newington History Group / Facebook)

Discovered at the excavation in Newington, the site of the Watling Temple. (Newington History Group / Facebook)

They also found the remains of residential buildings and some jewelry. Dr. Paul Wilkinson, director of SWAT, told the Daily Mail that the experts “also uncovered an ancient 23 foot (7 meter) wide road which ran from London to the Kent coast”.

However, the most interesting building excavated at the site was a 2000-year-old temple. This was once a place of worship for the local Romano-Celtic inhabitants. Many stones from the building have been found and it has been named the Watling Temple.

There are only approximately 150 temple sites from this period in England. Brinkwire reports that this “means that all Romano-Celtic temples with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be of national importance”.

The Director of SWAT Archaeology, Paul Wilkinson told the Daily Mail , that “The industry, residential quarter, and temple tell us that Newington could be Durolevum”. This was a long-lost Roman town, once a major industrial center in the region.

Part of the ancient Roman town where the temple was discovered. (Newington History Group / Fair Use)

Part of the ancient Roman town where the temple was discovered. (Newington History Group / Fair Use )

The town dates from about 30 BC and was originally inhabited by Celtic Britons . In the 1st century AD, the town was occupied by the Romans who greatly expanded it and it thrived until about the 5th century AD.

Despite the rarity of the Romano-Celtic temple it was not deemed to be of sufficient archaeological importance to halt the housing development. This ruling would have meant that the place of worship would have been reburied. The once sacred building would have been lost forever beneath a new housing project, only months after it was brought to light.

Rescuing the Temple

This is when the Newington History Group became involved. They are a group of local historians who are committed to preserving and promoting the heritage of this part of England. They, like many local people, were angry at the idea of such a historic monument being lost forever.

The group lobbied the Kent County Council and also local archaeological experts to save the temple from reburial. Remarkably, just days before the Romano-Celtic ruin was going to be buried, the authorities agreed to help the group save the temple.

Offertory pits for the temple. (Newington History Group / Facebook)

Offertory pits for the temple. (Newington History Group / Facebook)

The group announced on their webpage that the temple had been saved. There was a catch though - the temple had to be moved to another location.

Many of the stones of the temple have been removed from the construction site with the help of SWAT and taken to a storage site in Newington. Eventually the aim of the historians is to rebuild the 2000 year old religious building in the village.

Rebuilding the Temple

According to the Newington History Group ’s website, “the flints have been removed and the foundations will be rebuilt in the village”. The group has ambitious plans to recreate the temple.

According to the Newington History Group website, it will be built to “the correct alignment and to the original design”. The enthusiasts are committed not only to saving the building from destruction but to rebuild it.

Historians in Kent have vowed to rebuild a 2,000-year-old temple in a bid to save it from destruction by developers after initial plans meant it would be reburied. (Newington History Group / Fair Use )

The Newington History Group Facebook page, states that they want the proposed recreation to be an “educational heritage attraction”. The project could take some time and may need more support from experts such as SWAT Archaeology.

Sadly, not all the remains found at the construction site can be saved, including ruins once used for industrial purposes and private dwellings. Many of the artifacts found at the site have been removed and will be put on public display in Newington as part of a national heritage event.

Top image: The Romano-Celtic temple, named the Watling Temple, will be moved from the construction site and rebuilt in the village. Source: Newington History Group / Facebook .

By Ed Whelan

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