Vale and Ridgeway Project

Vale and Ridgeway Project

Directors: Gary Lock and Chris Gosden

The Marcham/Frilford excavations began in 2001 and finished in 2011.

The excavations concentrated on the site of Marcham/Frilford which is well known from previous excavations (see the interim reports for references) and often referred to as just ‘Frilford’.  The site is located at the Noah’s Ark (a former Inn) on the A338 in the Vale of the White Horse, and just a few miles to the north of the sites excavated as part of the Hillforts of the Ridgeway Project. These sites together, form the Vale and Ridgeway Project, the aim of which was to explore life in this area through the later prehistoric and Romano-British periods.

The excavations at Marcham/Frilford were focused on an Iron Age settlement and ritual complex overlain by a Romano-British temple. The temple had a large temenos area defined by a stone wall with various public buildings outside it, including a large circular structure which was possibly a form of theatre/amphitheatre associated with religious activities at the nearby temple.  In the east of the site, further evidence for Iron Age activity was discovered, including large bank and ditched enclosures which appear to be ritual rather than domestic.

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A video of the 2011 excavations at Marcham can be seen at (Scroll down the page)

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As would be expected for a site of this kind and size, the artefactual evidence recovered is extensive and exceptional, with a collection of pottery of national importance as well as many thousands of animal bones.

A New Phase for the Marcham/Frilford investigations

Now, thanks to a £96,000 Heritage Lottery award, a 3- year community archaeology project has begun close to the site of the excavations, at Manor Farm, Marcham supervised by Project Officers Sheila Raven and Paula Levick.  Volunteers from Marcham and the surrounding villages will undergo specialist training in the post-excavation analysis of pottery, animal bone and original site records. Training by specialists in these fields will be provided throughout all stages of the work, allowing local people to contribute to a major research project. In addition to the work at Manor Farm, Education Officer Emma Gowans will visit schools and local societies with teaching collections and updates on the Project as the story unfolds.

 The project can be contacted at


Gosden, C. and Lock, G. 2003. Frilford: A Romano-British ritual pool in Oxfordshire? Current Archaeology, No.184, Vol. XVI No 4, pp. 156-9.

Kamash Z,, Gosden G. and Lock G. 2010. Continuity and Religious Practices in Roman Britain: The Case of the Rural Religious Complex at Marcham/Frilford, Oxfordshire.  Britannia  41. 95-125.  (copyright Cambridge University Press)

Interim reports are published each year in South Midlands Archaeology and are available here as downloadable PDF files.