Painting – at least part of Roman Bath – red!

An archaeological dig at the Roman Baths has uncovered new details about the history of the baths – including the remains of red paint on the outside Roman wall of the Great Bath, which implies that the building was red.

At least part of Roman Bath was painted red!


The dig took place underneath York Street and Swallow Street, in an area of the Roman Baths not currently open to the public. This area will form part of the new Access and Investigation Zones in the Roman Baths Learning Centre, and the work was carried out to find out more about the archaeology of the site.

Roman dig
The archaeological investigation underway.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “It’s fascinating to see new finds being unearthed at the Roman Baths, giving us further information about the history of the site. When the Roman Baths Learning Centre opens in 2019, these spaces will form part of a state-of-the-art education centre, which will include a digging pit where school groups can uncover replica Roman objects in an authentic setting.”

Highlights of the dig included:

Discovering wall plaster with a red painted finish still adhering to the outside of a Roman wall of the Great Bath, which implies that this part of the building was painted red.

Investigating a Roman bath from the earliest phase of the Roman Baths

Investigating a second Roman Bath beneath York Street

Finding the footings of the Roman walls of the Great Bath

Establishing the Roman floor levels to the south of the Great Bath

Identifying a pre-Roman land surface beneath York Street

Gaining a better understanding of the extent of Georgian and Victorian disturbance of the area

Samples have been taken for analysis by scientists at Bournemouth University, who will try to work out where building materials used in the different phases of construction of the Roman Baths came from. 

The work is all part of the Archway Centre project, which will create a Roman Baths Learning Centre above the former city laundry in Swallow Street and a World Heritage Centre at 10 York Street.

Visitors will be able to walk through spaces beneath York Street excavated by City Architect Major Davis in the 1880s, and see parts of the Roman Baths that have never before been open for regular public access.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has earmarked £3.37million towards the project. The Roman Society has also just donated £1,000 towards the development of the Archway Centre, helping to fund this work.

For more information about the Archway Project visit