Roman temple at Gresham Street

Gresham temple

26 January 2007

Excavation is continuing at the 56 Gresham Street site, where a MoLAS team of c 10 has been working since November.

Possibly the most important discovery so far has been the near complete ground plan of a small rectangular Roman temple. Foundations and some bits of superstructure, including floor surfaces, have been identified of the inner cellar and the surrounding ambulatory.

The 2nd or 3rd century square building with an outer wall has now been identified by several experts as a temple or shrine. The inner building was probably quite high and the outer walls supported a roofed portico with the space between acting as an ambulatory. Within the building, the extremely hard and thick base of flint cobbles cemented into mortar in the southern half was excavated to a depth of approximately 1.5m.

A gravel surface was found in the northern half representing the level from which the building was constructed. The purpose of the thick base is not clear but may have supported a statue or altar dedicated to the relevant deity.

Further thin layers of make-up and levelling were removed in the ambulatory and the construction cut for the outer wall was revealed and excavated to the south. The southern outer wall has also been removed.

A visit from the supervisor of the old GAM88 excavation (Tony Mackinder) in the NW corner of the present site, and subsequent checking of the archive, revealed that the western outer wall of the temple was recorded at this time, together with surfaces and destruction debris suggesting the proximity of what was then described as “an impressive Roman building” (GAM88 archive report). This clearly refers to the temple now uncovered in Area 2!

The temple resembles similar simple structures at Lullingstone, Harlow, Farley, Great Chesterford, Colchester, Caister and so on.