Edward Hunt's Forest of Dean Miscellany

Fact, Fiction and Fantasy

The Temple at Lydney

Although relics of Roman times have been discovered in many parts of the Forest, the only place where there appears to have been any substantial settlement was in the neighbourhood of Lydney. What remains seems to suggest the presence of some appreciable population over a considerable period, but whether that population was composed of Romans, or of Romanised Britons with a sprinkling of Roman officials stationed among them, cannot be determined. Whatever the composition of the community, the inhabitants were disposed to take no chances, since they built their town in the promontory camp which they found already defending the spur.

The most interesting building of which we have information is the Temple, or shrine Celtic god whose name has come down to us as 'Nodens'. We know nothing of his attributes, but from the fact that the Romans equated him with their own god of healing, we may suppose that the main purpose of pilgrims and worshippers who visited the shrine was in search of health. The traces of the temple seem to be those of a restored building, its predecessor having been damaged by subsidence, but the remains are of enormous interest since their plan can be matched only by one other building of its kind in Europe, for they show a design such as was later developed in the larger Christian churches, and is totally unlike the usual form of a pagan temple.

Other buildings on the site included a large dwelling house, or perhaps a hostel for visitors to the shrine; then there were what appear to have been shops, and a Bath house complete with its furnace and hot water supply pipes.

The above text is from "Forest Story" by R.J. Mansfield (publisher: the author, 1964)

Incubation Chambers?

At the famous Romano-Celtic temple at Lydney in Gloucestershire, Sir Mortimer Wheeler discovered a narrow building, 183 feet long, consisting of about a dozen small rooms opening onto a verandah. A paved stone corridor passed before the doorways, but each room had an ornamented mosaic floor. Wheeler argued strongly that this building was an incubation dormitory, where those who came to consult the oracle slept when receiving prophetic guidance in the form of specially-induced dreams. A similar building has been found at the temple Asklepios at Epidaurus in Greece. That building appears to be referred to by the Greek writer Pausanias, who says that "beyond the temple is the place where the suppliants sleep". Wheeler concluded that "it may be that the Long Building was used perhaps to supplement the 'chapels' in the temple itself for the purpose of that temple-sleep through which the healing-god and his priesthood were wont to work.

The above text is from The Quest for Merlin by Nikolai Tolstoy (publisher: Sceptre 1985)

Edward Hunt