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Rural Roman Gods in Temples across the Thames Valley
in Temples across the Thames Valley


Roman Temple at Weycock Hill & Roman Priest from Lowbury Hill -  Nash Ford Publishing

 

  • There were several temples to  pagan gods in Roman Berkshire.
  • They stood inside a sacred area called a 'temenos'. It was surrounded by a big wall.
  • They were visited by lots of pilgrims just like churches in later Christian times.
  • The main ones were at Frilford, near Abingdon.
    • Frilford was a religious centre: a small town which grew up around at least two temples.
    • One temple was big and square, with a later extension.
    • A smaller round one had a sacred flame inside it.
    • Among the buildings in the town was a large stone hotel for pilgrims.
    • It also had an amphitheatre (big arena) for religious ceremonies and a big cemetery.
  • Some temples were built at the side of the road, like the one at Weycock Hill in Waltham St. Lawrence, near Maidenhead.
    • Weycock means 'Wayside Mound'. The road was the Camlet Way between Calleva (Silchester) and Verulamium (St. Albans). The mound was over the temple ruins.
    • In Victorian times the walls under the mound still stood 2.5 metres high.
    • It was a big octagonal temple with a covered walkway around it.
    • Some people think it was dedicated to Venus, the Goddess of Love.
    • There were a few buildings nearby. They were probably shops and hotels for pilgrims.
  • Other temples were built on their own, often on hilltops. There was a Roman temple on St. Leonard's Hill at Clewer near Windsor.
    • It might have been dedicated to Cernunnus, a god who was long remembered in the area as Herne the Hunter.
    • Legoland has now been built over it.
  • There was another temple on Lowbury Hill, on the border of Aston Upthorpe and Aldworth.
    • Lots of sheep bones were found there and a small statue of a cockerel. It may have been dedicated to Mercury, the Messenger of the Gods. These were his sacred animals.
    • Pilgrims gave lots of brooches and other jewelry to the god worshipped there.
    • Lots of oysters were eaten at the temple.
    • Special religious spears with bells have been found there. What strange ceremonies were they used in?
    • It later had a Saxon burial mound built next to it.
  • Some Roman temples were later replaced by Christian churches. There seem to have been temples where the churches at Finchampstead and Hampstead Norreys now stand. 
  • There was a small round temple at Faringdon. These are usually called shrines.
  • The Uffington White Horse was also important in Roman religion. They held annual fairs there. Dragon Hill, near the horse, may have been an open air temple.

 

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