How the Roman temple in Greenwich Park might have looked. Created by Channel 4's Time Team.
A large mound in the east of the park, called Queen Elizabeth’s Bower, was the site of a Roman Temple from around AD 40 to AD 425. Although no remains are visible today, an information panel describes what was once here.
In 1902, an initial investigation on the Bower was rewarded by the uncovering of a small patch of mosaic flooring. A proper excavation was hastily arranged, and evidence of a substantial building, thought to be a villa, was revealed along with many artefacts, including Roman coins dating from AD 43 to AD 410. This suggested that the site was very significant and in use for a considerable time.
Further excavations in 1978 found the south-west corner of a building. Then in 1999, a rapid dig conducted for the television programme ‘Time Team’* revealed its outline and discovered part of a plaque of Carrara marble inscribed to the god Jupiter. A roof tile marking also showed that the building was a public space, not a private villa. It was clear that the archaeological remains were a temple and that the remnants of cheap pottery, charcoal, and oyster shells were used to cater for many visitors.
Time Team also looked for evidence of Watling Street, the Roman road from Dover to London, and established that this passed through the park just north of the Flower Garden and was six metres wide. This accounted for the temple’s position, which would have had not only a commanding view of the Thames and provided easy access from a very busy and important road.
The two most important finds of the 1999 dig – the marble plaque and the roof tile – are displayed in Greenwich Visitor’s Centre, along with some other artefacts.
*The Time Team programme was aired on Channel 4, series 7, episode 11.