Updated: Oct 19, 2020
A hidden gem in Greenwich Park is the site of a former Roman Temple. At the site today there is not much too see unless you know where to look.
The site is situated near the road (an extension of the present-day Old Dover Road) that used to connect London and Kent. Built around 100AD the site was in use for much of the time that the Romans occupied Britain (43AD-c.410AD). It was believed to be a centre for healing, pilgrimage, worship and offerings to the gods (1). One of the main indications that the site contained a temple building is that part of an inscription to Jupiter, king of the gods, was found at the site (2).
The temple site was first excavated in 1902 after it was accidentally discovered during routine park works and they discovered three floors. Excavation took place once again after the removal of diseased elm trees in 1978/9 which revealed evidence of a temple. The most recent excavation was done by the TV program Time Team in 1999 when their discoveries increased the probability that this was the site of a temple (1).
These buildings were constructed to meet the spiritual needs of the community and were regarded as a treasure house of deities and priests rather than a building for worshippers. Private worship would have taken place outside the building. The buildings would have been made of stone or timber and the complex would have included other buildings. The temple was first built of clay on flint foundations but was later replaced by a larger square building with a raised floor. Most of the area of the temple complex is unexcavated and could contain key information about the site (3).
A digital reconstruction of the site and a full list of artefacts can be found on the following website: https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park/things-to-see-and-do/ancient-greenwich/roman-remains.
The full Time Team episode can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBCtS2k211A
(1) The Royal Parks. ‘Roman Remains’. Accessed 16 February 2020. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park/things-to-see-and-do/ancient-greenwich/roman-remains.
(2) Royal Museums Greenwich. ‘Roman Remains’. Accessed 16 February 2020. https://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/we-recommend/attractions/roman-remains.
(3) Historic England. ‘Romano-Celtic Temple in Greenwich Park’. Accessed 16 February 2020. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1021439.