Skip to main content
Read page text

less widely acclaimed. Then, in 2008, excavations for Anglian Water by Northamptonshire Archaeology found the unexpected remains of a Romano-British shrine. This discovery has allowed the story of the cult centre’s creation, usage, and abandonment to be told. It also gives a glimpse of the rites practised here.

A local shrine

Only a few Roman remains are known in the immediate vicinity of Rutland Water. There were rescue excavations of villa buildings at a dam near Empingham in the 1970s, while more modest domestic settlements have also been investigated in nearby parishes. Information from these suggests a local pattern of prosperity from the mid2nd century AD, visible in settlement growth and the upgrading of timber buildings to stone structures. The 4th century AD, though, brought decline. Several smallholdings in the Oakham area were abandoned at this time. Excavation revealed that the history of the shrine reflects this pattern, proceeding hand-in-hand with the fortunes of the community it served.

Further afield, a densely settled agricultural landscape grew up in the broader region of hills and valleys between the civitas capital of the Corieltavi tribe at Ratae Corieltavorum (modern Leicester) and the small town of Durobrivae (Water Newton). Durobrivae was the centre of a thriving pottery industry, producing distinctive beakers that achieved considerable market penetration in Roman Britain. Some of their wares were deposited at the shrine.

There was further pottery- and tile-production in Welland Valley to the south of Durobrivae, where ironstone quarries were also worked. Some 12km east of the shrine lay the Roman town of Great Casterton, which had grown up around the site of a 1st-century AD fort guarding the point where Ermine Street crossed the River Gwash.

It was within this mixed industrial and agricultural region that the Rutland shrine was constructed during the mid-2nd century AD. This new religious focus lay north-east of Egleton, and occupied a prominent location at the head of the Gwash Valley. Consisting of a circular stone building with an internal diameter of 10.5m, it bears close comparison to an ever-swelling corpus of structures that fall into Warwick Rodwell’s Roman religious building classification (see ‘Further reading’ on p.25) as ‘local cult centres’.

| Issue 285

| Issue 285

above This site plan shows the location of the shrine, as well as other Roman and Medieval features. LEFT P otted history: three Nene Valley colourcoat beakers and a small plain beaker had been carefully placed in pits inside the shrine.

Religious roundhouse

The shrine’s foundations consisted of pitched ironstone held fast with clay. Rising from these was a 0.6m-wide limestone wall that survived up to four courses high. Excavation soon revealed that the southern portion of the shrine’s | current archaeology


My Bookmarks

    Skip to main content