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Harlow Temple

Iron Age Shrine


Signposted as 'Roman Temple', but there was a Celtic place of worship here before the Romans.

This site is a surprise in that you drive into a busy industrial area and then find yourself in a little oasis of calm. Up close it felt Roman because slabs have been laid out to show where the Roman temple was, but when you first walk towards it from a little way off, it feels older to me.

To get there, drive into the Riverway industrial area until among all the factory units you see a green patch on your right. At the moment there's a very convenient place to park in front of the entrance, but otherwise, there's a public car park a couple of hundred yards further back on the left.

Walk in and keep to your left (there quite a few trees and shrubs) until you see the first information board, which tells you about the Iron Age, as well as the Roman, background. Then follow the path around to your left and you come to the temple mound.

Before the industrial estate was built, the site was excavated. I was a kid at the time and remember the local community being invited in to help the archaeologists with the dig, as they were under pressure to get it done before building began.
Orifrog Posted by Orifrog
12th May 2013ce
Edited 12th May 2013ce

Comments (4)

It's nice to see your photos. I visited a long time ago. It's good that they never built on top of it, even though it's in the middle of an industrial estate and there's 'nothing to see'. I bet they'd build on such a thing these days, sorry for the cynicism. There'd be a plaque outside Tescos or somesuch telling you it was underneath.

I know what you mean about the Feel. Because although it's amongst factories, it's still got a swampy carr vibe, what with the trees and being so close to the river? The river seems important.

Inspired to do a bit of googling by your posts, I also found that there's a Saxon addition at the site too. So it was potentially a special spot for a very long time. Unless the Saxon bit was just the ticket office / bacon roll stand for the Ancient Ruins tourist attraction of course.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
13th May 2013ce
It seems to be completely off anyone's radar. They're in the process of knocking down a ginormous warehouse next to the site, so it all looks a bit post-apocalyptic.

I think you're right about the swampy feel because just a bit further up the river there are water meadows (opposite David Beckham's place). I wonder if it originally linked in with the barrow at Gilden Way? I didn't know about the Saxon link, but they used the Gilden Way barrow as their moot.

Anyway, I'm going to have a look in Harlow Museum and see what they've got from the site. If I see any Saxon fast food artefacts I'll let you know!
Orifrog Posted by Orifrog
17th May 2013ce
Post-apocalyptic is just my thing. It must add to the unusual atmosphere!

The barrow moot thing is interesting. I wonder if it was about having a respect for the ancestors, or believing in them and wanting to get them on your side. Or whether it was more cynical and political than that, more of a stunt to associate yourselves with long standing symbolic things in your landscape. Kind of how certain political parties like to show how British they are in an attempt to legitimise their policies in the minds of lazy thinking people.

Anyway, have fun at the museum and I look forward to if you report back.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th May 2013ce
I reckon the Saxons might have recognised the barrow as a sacred site and appropriated it, so bit of respect and a bit of politics,perhaps.
The trip to the museum was a bit depressing . As I understand it, the temple site used to be an actual low hill called Stanegrove Hill and was a scheduled monument until the fifties when part of it got sliced up by a railway siding and the rest was flattened when the Templefields industrial area was built in the 60s. What remains today is imported soil.Amazing that any atmosphere remains, but I think it does.
Apparently there are proposals to do something arty with the site using lottery funding to make people more aware of it!
You were right about the swampy feel, the river used to be much wider,with islets dotted about which were farmed. Stanegrove Hill was one of these and would have stood out, I guess.
Orifrog Posted by Orifrog
24th May 2013ce
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