Broadcast 4 January 2009
Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by Videotext Communications Ltd to carry out archaeological recording and post-excavation analysis on an archaeological evaluation by Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ at Friars Wash, Hertfordshire, centred on NGR 510100 214580. The Site lies in the hinterland of the important Romano-British town of Verulamium (St. Albans) and is located close to the assumed line of Watling Street, an important road running from London to Wroxeter.
The presence of archaeological remains on the Site was first noted in 1965 when building foundations were ploughed up. An aerial photograph taken in 1976 shows an apparently multi-period site including ditched enclosures. A large triple ditch/dyke system is also apparent, next to two rectangular structures which were considered to be Romano-British temples, and other possible features.
The fieldwork comprised geophysical survey and four evaluation trenches. Geophysical survey identified several anomalies that coincided with the features visible on the aerial photograph, and the four evaluation trenches were targeted on the various possible masonry structures and ditches identified.
The earliest deposits encountered comprise possible buried soils recorded in Trenches 1 and 2, both of which pre-dated the construction of the masonry structures. Although no dating evidence was recovered from either of these deposits, finds recovered from the metalled surface (108) directly overlying the possible buried soil in Trench 1 suggest a late 1st or 2nd century AD construction date for structure (109), and presumably also the surrounding ambulatory walls, with activity on the site continuing into the late 4th century AD.
The ground plans of the two structures in Trench 1 identifies them as a pair of Romano-British temples of quite an unusual form, the two central cellae (square buildings) being surrounded in each case by an outer ambulatory wall, with the ambulatories separated by a common dividing wall. The small, approximately square building recorded in Trench 3 could represent a third temple cella, but its small size is perhaps more suggestive of an ancillary building. The circular structure in Trench 2 is similar in form to other known Romano-British religious buildings and may be either a temple or a shrine. The approximately square flint and chalk footing in the centre of the circular building was probably for a plinth, which, from the presence of a small slot around two of its sides, may have been clad in higher quality stone or timber.
The evaluation trenching demonstrated that, although to an extent plough-damaged, the sub-surface archaeological remains were generally well-preserved.