Rebuilt Romano-Celtic temple unveiled in Kent

It is 70m from where archaeological remains thought to represent a 1st-century AD temple were discovered

A reconstruction of what has been interpreted as a Romano-Celtic temple has been unveiled in Newington, Kent. Incorporating the original stones, it is 70m from where archaeological remains thought 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 Archaeology (who have also led the rebuilding work) between 2019 and 2021. The foundations lay within a double-ditched square enclosure in the north-eastern corner of the site, and have been interpreted as the inner and outer wall footings of a temple, distinguishing its ambulatory from the central cella (which measures 6.75m by 5.7m). To the north, inside the enclosure, the archaeologists uncovered several deep pits (interpreted as ‘ritual shafts’), containing coins, brooches, pins, and pottery, while to the south-east they located shallower pits containing small amounts of animal bone, possibly deposited as offerings. The inner ditch yielded sherds of 1st-century pottery, and elsewhere at the development site the archaeologists found evidence of Late Iron Age settlement and early Roman industrial activity.

Original temple. IMAGE: SWAT Archaeology.

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 Newington History Group, which supported the project. Developer Persimmon Homes facilitated the formal relocation of the structure by setting aside an area of land where the temple’s foundations could be rebuilt alongside an information board. ‘In the original temple, a lot of the flint nodules had been robbed, but we made up the loss from stone we had retrieved from the topsoil above buried Roman villas at Faversham,’ said Paul Wilkinson, director of SWAT Archaeology. ‘It’s the same size and the same orientation as the original temple building,’ he said, adding that the foundation walls were pieced back together using a lime mortar mix as recommended by Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius (80-15 BC).

Watling Temple can be found in a landscaped area off Watling Drive, Newington, ME9 7FX.