As a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Guild of Honorary Guides, l have been telling groups of tourists for several years that the old city wall ran up through the middle of the Saw Close road before bearing right along Upper Borough Walls.
However – to be completely accurate – the road only covers the gently rising rampart slope of the original Roman defences.
Turns out the wall itself is slightly further west and is buried under the pavement that leads up on the Theatre Royal side!
Alistair Barber is the Senior Project Officer for Cotswold Archaeology who have been busy excavating in and around the Saw Close site that will see the building of a casino, hotel and several restaurants.
At the moment, some of the old Palace Theatre is being demolished. Though the tower facade – which is listed – will be incorporated into the new build.
Last year Cotswold Archaeology held an open day to show Bathonians the pipe factory they had uncovered and recorded before being ‘put to bed’ under a protective coating so that the new construction can go ahead around it.
Alistair tells me how they came face to face with the city wall – and its Roman origins – while keeping a watching brief on a trench contractors had put in to link drainage on the site with the main sewer nearby.
He told me: ‘At the limit of Sanctus’s excavations (for their drainage connection to the existing sewer in the road) we identified a series of rampart deposits which would have run back from the Roman town wall (there was no trace of the masonry wall itself within our trench, and the wall is thought to lie slightly further to the west, closer to the line of the pavement outside of the Theatre Royal).
As you’ll see from the attached close-up photo the rampart was constructed from a series of fairly clean clay, limestone and gravel layers – a few fragments of pottery and Roman roof tile were recovered from some of them.
You’ll see from one of the photos looking down into the trench from above that the rampart layers had been cut through by later, medieval, pits – leaving only an ‘island’ of yellow rampart material showing in the bottom of the trench.’
Fascinating stuff and thanks Alistair.