Pagans Hill Roman temple
A reconstruction drawing of Pagans Hill Roman Temple
|Location||Chew Stoke, Somerset.|
|Founded||3rd Century AD|
|Abandoned||4th Century AD|
The temple was on a promontory overlooking the River Chew. It was excavated by Philip Rahtz between 1949 and 1953. In addition to the foundations of the temple a well (17 metres deep) and several ditches were found which contained small artifacts showing occupation of the site before the Roman period including pottery of Iron Age type, and a coin dating from c335-7. Evidence of continuing use after the Roman period is provided by a bucket and an exotic 7th century glass jar found in the well.
It was a double-octagonal temple building comprised an inner wall, which formed the cella or sanctuary, surrounded by an outer wall forming an ambulatory, or covered walkway. The outer portico measures about 56½ feet in diameter, the inner cellar about 32 feet across. All walls were about 3 feet thick. Along each wall were two features described by Rahtz as buttresses but were more likely to have been pilasters, as their small size would render them ineffective as wall supports. Warwick Rodwell suggests that the ambulatory would have been cross-vaulted and the pilasters used as external supports for this. This would allow for a good deal of natural light to circulate the building and give an aesthetically balanced look to the structure. The ambulatory would then give the illusion of a labyrinth of side chambers running off from the central area.
The site formed a large pilgrimage centre including guest houses and priest's house as well as the octagonal temple and holy well.
The temple faced east and was first built in the late-3rd century, possibly to the god Mercury. After the collapse of the original building another temple was built, which again fell into ruin. The final rebuild, after about 367 included the addition of an internal screen. The latest dateable coin found at the site was of Arcadius (383-408). The building finally collapsed in the 5th century. The site of the temple is on the aptly named Pagans Hill, although the version of the name is modern and any link to the site in the naming of the road has been lost in the mists of time.
Pagans Hill Dog
Among the artefacts found in the well approximately 15 meters west of the temple foundations, was an unusual sculpture of a dog with collar. The statue was in four sections, measured 63 cm in height overall and was made of Doulting Stone, a limestone, as still quarried today at Doulting Stone Quarry.
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