Monument record MCC2849 - Romano-Celtic Temple Complex, Gosbecks, Colchester


A large religious complex was constructed at some point in the later 1st century AD, comprising a square-shaped temple enclosure c.1ha. in area, defined by a ditch (with an east-facing entrance) that is almost certainly late Iron Age in origin, with a double portico (with triple walls) around the outside and with a temple, comprising cella and ambulatory (14m in width), in the south-east corner of the corner. The Roman portico itself was set within a larger walled enclosure or temenos (c.2.65ha. in area), which abutted another large (c.4ha.) walled area to the east (see MCC7043 for both), to the north of the theatre (MCC2831) and north of the site of Cunobelin's farmstead (MCC7044).


Grid reference Centred TL 96782 22547 (114m by 111m)
Map sheet TL92SE
County ESSEX


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

The enclosure ditch at the centre of the complex, enclosing the temple and sacred area, has been sectioned twice and was shown to have been recut and kept clean during the life of the Roman sanctuary. Hull's section in 1936 found a little native pottery and a coin of Cunobelin. It was V-shaped and measures 7m wide x 3.8m deep. A further section was excavated by CAT in 1997 and found mid 1st century pottery and much animal bone, including a number of pigs' heads in the lowest fill. Above this lay roof tile from the collpased portico mixed with carbonised woodland material, suggesting the portico had become overgrown before finally collapsing, and above this lay in turn material from the temple. The only indication that the enclosure ditch had a bank was a thin patchy spread of gravel recorded in 1977 between the ditch and the inner wall of the portico.<1><2><3>

The double portico around the enclosure had three parallel walls with an entrance in the middle of the eastern side. The portico foundations were all 1.0-1.1m wide and deeper in the NW corner, presumably because of the steepness of the slope. Tesserae recovered from the ditch indicate that the portico may have had tesselated walkways.

Excavations in 1996-97 sectioned the corners of the portico to determine its plan, and established that the building's form was not quite square and measured c.98m across (ECC2725 and ECC2726).

The walled temenos was sectioned by Jenkins in 1842 and by the Essex Archaeological Society in 1949. Jenkins records that wall as c.0.9m thick and noted deep pits close to the wall containing oyster shells, boars' tusks and pottery. The 1949 excavation trenched along the wall line looking for foundations that had not been robbed-out. Traces of septaria buttresses and mortared rubbled foundations were noted. The foundations of the eastern enclosure were also traced and emnants of a gravel floor were noted. The eastern walled enclosre was constructed with recesses or exedrae in the northern walls, possibly for benches, and perhaps suggesting it enclosed a garden (see MCC7043).

The plan of the temple indicates that Hull must have sectioned it in 1936 without realising it. In 1995, a trench was located across the robbed structure. This produced traces of Purbeck marble dressing, black and white tesserae and parts of clay Doric column fragments that had fallen into the enclosure ditch. The column fragments were large, suggesting shafts 0.67m in diameter at the base - suggestign a ceiling 5.7m high.

A bronze statue of Mercury was found in c.1945 by a ploughman called Beales at Gosbecks Farm (MCC2855). The statue was uncovered near to the temple portico although an accurate find spot is not known.

The Monument is part of the Scheduled Monument Gosbecks Iron Age and Romano-British site, List Number 1002180:

Sources/Archives (3)

  • <1> Serial: Hawkes, Christopher, F. C. & Crummy, Philip. 1995. CAR 11: Camulodunum II. 11. pp.101-102.
  • <2> Monograph: Gascoyne, Adrian and Radford, David. 2013. Colchester. Fortress of the War God. An Archaeological Assessment. pp.145-146.
  • <3> Monograph: Hull, M. Rex. 1958. Roman Colchester: Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. No. XX. pp.263-264.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Events/Activities (24)

Record last edited

Nov 9 2016 3:35PM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.