Frilford Temples

Amphitheatre and Temple Or Shrine

The Frilford site, on a ridge beside the River Ock, is known to have been seasonally occupied from about 350BC and by the second century BC the settlement had become permanent. The religious needs of this community were served by a simple timber-built shrine in which the main uprights were retained in two rows of three post-holes aligned north-south. Beneath the central post of the westernmost row was buried an iron plough-share, evidently a votive foundation deposit, perhaps indicating that the temple was dedicated to a deity involved with fertility and/or agriculture. This sacred timber building was later enclosed by a horseshoe-shaped ditch approached along a causeway from the north-west, resembling the form of a ‘henge monument’.

The Iron-Age temple remained in use until the Flavian period in the latter half of the 1st century AD when the ditch was filled-in with clay, the act being consecrated by the deposit of a miniature bronze sword – unique in Britain – and a model shield, both indicative of a warrior aspect to the deity. Upon the site thus levelled was then built the first Romano-British temple, now designated Frilford 1. It is significant that no Roman pottery sherds were present in the ditch infill, which indicates that levelling occurred prior to the first Roman imports from the continent reaching the area, thus very early during the Romanization process. The votive plough-share, sword and shield point to the deity perhaps being some aspect of Mars, possibly Camulos.

Circular Temple – Frilford 1

Built sometime around 80-90AD, this circular shrine lay directly upon the site of the earlier iron-age temple. Its 2½ ft. thick dry-stone foundations enclosed an area 36 ft. in outside diameter, upon which was raised a superstructure of timber and roofed by tiles. The building was seemingly destroyed by fire, and the finding of a coin of Valens amongst the destruction debris places its demise no earlier than the late-4th century. The orientation of the temple remains unknown.

Square Romano-British Temple – Frilford 2

Originally built in the late-1st century beside Temple#1, annexes were added during the late-3rd or early-4th century. By the 5th century the temple had been allowed to fall into decay. The portico of this temple measured 55 feet square, the cella 25 feet square, with all walls an almost uniform 2½-3 feet thick. The temple faced east. (Type Ia or Ib, possibly IIa/b)

Amphitheatre or Sacred pool?

Nearly four hundred feet east of the temenos boundary wall has been found a large Roman structure now flattened and ploughed over. It is approximately circular, about two hundred and thirteen feet in diameter, built into a narrow dry valley running south to the River Ock. The arena was surrounded by stone wall and a bank about thirty-five to forty feet wide. There was an small projecting annex to the south, while the entrance was probably on the eastern side. This unusual structure has been interpreted as either an amphitheatre or a walled enclosure for a sacred pool.

References for Frilford Temples

  • Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966).

Map References for Frilford Temples

NGRef: SU4396 OSMap: LR164/174

Roman Roads near Frilford Temples

Probable Road: NNE (8.5) to North Oxford (Oxfordshire)