Sod All to See

Stephen notes:

Ok, I know they weren’t much but they have always been there, (since Roman times ho, ho…) but now they have gone. I noticed on the 13th of August that the railings had gone. I put it down to maybe the horses wouldn’t like running past them and thought no more about it. I took a photo but was unable to get right up to the mound because of the barriers.

That side of the park is now open so I went to have a look and  as you can see the bricks are no more but the ground has been disturbed.

The Phantom replies:

You know I always felt slightly sorry for Time Team fans trudging up the hill to see the exciting-sounding lost Roman temple for themselves only to discover them to be the weediest remains in all Christendom, but they were our weediest remains, so I totally get what you’re saying, Stephen.

In case you never saw them, or, indeed, you are missing them already, here are the Greenwich Roman Temple remains, in their above-ground entirety:

Thing is (and it’s sort of obvious when you think about it, which, of course, I never did) these rather pathetic tesserae that had grand railings and an information board several times their own size, were really just a ‘marker’ – a little ‘teaser,’ set in modern concrete to say ‘Here be Romans,’ and the powers-that-be felt that they were giving a false impression that this was part of the original temple floor in its original position (when of course it would have been several feet deeper in reality).

My contact tells me:

The first excavations were in the early 20th century and later digs (including the Time Team project – TGP) revealed a very big site well below present ground levels and extending to a much larger area than the little patch within the railings. There was apparently a large temple surrounded by a courtyard. So we have all been walking over the remains for years.

English Heritage thought that both the railings and the mosaic in concrete failed to give a picture of the size of the site and its importance or its depth under ground level so they advertised their plan to remove the railings and bury the little bit that was on show.

There was an explanatory notice on the railings for quite a few weeks before the Olympics closure so this wasnt some kind of stealthy move by the Royal Parks or LOCOG.

EH plan to put a new and better information board next to the site and they say that they are entirely happy that no damage occurred as a result of the horses or the crowds etc. They point out that the best way to preserve an ancient monument consisting of buried ruins is to leave it underground and undisturbed. 

Personally I can’t argue with that – and I’ll look forward to seeing the new plaque – though I do find myself wondering whether if, given the tiny pieces of tesserae are already ‘out of context’, there might be room for a little plinth-type thing with them on, so that there is at least something Roman above ground for us to see at the end of a long climb.

What do you think? Should the pieces just go under the soil to join their friends the foundations, or did you prefer seeing them above ground?

the attachments to this post:


Turfs over Roman remains
Turfs over Roman remains

Roman Aug 13 stephen
Roman Aug 13 stephen

5 Comments to “Sod All to See”

  1. JOF says:

    I’m with you on this one, Phantom. The previous small enclosure and minimal remains provided one of those interesting nooks and crannies which lift everyday life, and added to the scale of the history in Greenwich Park. They may not have given “a picture of the size of the site and its importance or its depth under ground level” but neither does a new patch of grass. Yes to a better information panel but just telling you something was here is different from seeing something was here. Free the Greenwich tesserae.

  2. rp says:

    There’s also an odd little brick in the grass near the junction of Cade Road/Hyde Vale with the A2 – on the left hand side – (if you were looking at the A2 from Cade Road) (fancy google map location thing 51.472655,-0.004777 )

    must be a bugger if you catch it on your mower blades . . .

  3. WestCliffGB says:

    Comment, on what we have, in this instance, is enough. Why make Greenwich easier to explore for future generations? Let them re-discover!

  4. Nick says:

    So, what we’re saying is that even before the advent of the metal detector, it was thought necessary to put railings around these remains. I think the Park Commissioners would be quite happy if the general public forgot about their presence entirely. And, looking back on what I recall seeing there 50 years ago, and what is there now, it does look like the elements have not been kind to these stones. So, from a conservation point of view it is probably better for future generations that they remain buried.

  5. Capability Bowes says:

    What, no measured and rational comment from NOGOE?