Riverbank gives up more secrets

Bath Newseum has made its final trip to the rescue archaeology underway beside the River Avon at Broad Quay in Bath – an area due to be reshaped as part of a flood alleviation programme and also opened up – and renamed Bath Quays – as a sector for commercial regeneration.

How the river bank will be re-shaped for the new Bath Quays zone.

It also happens to be where the ordinary working folk of Bath both lived and earned a wage in an area often prone to flooding and considered a notorious slum of crowded tenements.

This wall – beside the river – has a cellar beneath it. It would have always been flooded so archaeologists think this may have been a boat house.

Members of Wessex Archaeology have been allowed in to record what is left of that once buried and forgotten environment before it is all swept away as the river bank is remodelled.

Cai Stands in the Bath House. This would have been a section of screened cubicles where people did their laundry and would have paid for hot river water by the bucketful. This facility was set up by the Baths and Laundry Society in the 19th century to promote ‘cleanliness of dress and person among the poor inhabitants of Bath.’

With just weeks to go it seems the archaeologists have left the best to last. Not only have they been uncovering the remains of a bath house in which the the people who lived in overcrowded tenements both washed themselves and did their laundry but they have also confirmed finding part of a defensive wall and ditch shown as a spur off the city walls on an early 18th century maps of Bath.

The rusty elliptical shape is where one of the copper boilers would have stood. Coal would have been brought in from the river to feed the furnace to heat the water.

Here’s what Cai Mason –  Senior Project Officer at this site for Wessex Archaeology – had to say when Bath Newseum went down to collect another ‘tale from the riverbank’.

The discovery of the defensive wall and ditch – plus the footbridge across it  – is something B&NES should consider keeping and not sweeping away.

The defensive wall cuts through this image from top to bottom. Difficult to see but the stones slope towards Cai Mason – pushed over by flood waters.

This is an important relic that should be marked in someway. I will ask for a comment.


  1. Richard – yet another fascinating insight. It seems a travesty to lose the mediaeval elements of the wall, ditch and slipway to have them incorporated somehow into the ongoing scheme. Cali talked about making the best finds available in the local museum – do you know which one ? We do not have an archaeological museum on Bath, I think….best barry

    1. I think B&NES will be considering the possibilities and l will let you know if and when a statement is made. I think the finds will make their way to the Museum of Bath at Work.

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