21st November 2018:

A photograph of a Roman-period limekiln uncovered by a team from OA South has been chosen as the cover image of the latest volume of Britannia, a prestigious national journal devoted to the subject of Roman Britain

The limekiln was discovered by archaeologists working on the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, where, ahead of the construction of a new warehouse development, an extensive Roman landscape associated with a scheduled Romano-Celtic temple complex was revealed.

The exceptionally well-preserved kiln, located at the edge of a potential large chalk quarry, consisted of two tile-built circular chambers cut into the side of the quarry. The kiln, which survived to a height of over 2m, was still filled with the last chalk firing, identified from alternating chalk and fuel layers. Two draw-holes were preserved at the base of the structure, where the quick lime was extracted for use in the construction of the temple.

To the west, a less well-preserved tile-kiln was identified within a circular enclosure. The rectangular kiln was constructed of flint and tile and had a long central flue with side flues at right angles that were separated by bars of natural geology. The tiles were placed between these raised bars so that heat and fumes from a fire adjacent or below the material was drawn up through and around it before passing out through a vent in the roof or superstructure.


The Roman tile kiln


Both kiln structures appear to be associated with the construction of the temple, probably in the late 1st to 2nd centuries AD. The temple would have required a significant amount of tile and lime mortar. A piece of ornate worked limestone also identified from the site may have originated from the temple complex.

It is believed that the temple fell into disuse at the end of the 2nd century AD and may have been demolished to provide building materials for the fortification of Verulamium (St Albans), which was constructed at this time. After demolition, the area was given over to agriculture, with field systems and corn-driers being established on the site. It is possible that the corn-driers were constructed using reused tiles taken from the nearby temple complex.

The site has produced one of the best-preserved Roman limekilns in the country, which is further enhanced by its potential association with the tile-kiln and the construction of the temple complex. It is fitting that the structure appears on the cover of Britannia. It is hoped that post-excavation analysis will provide further insights into the construction methods used in the temple complex and how such large-scale projects were organised within Roman Britain.