Barry returns for new look at Roman Baths.

Down in the tunnels below York Street archaeologists have been finishing off their work ready for contractors to move in and start the job of making the lintels that support the road safe.

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The concrete and metal beams holding up York Street.

Problems with water seeping into joints within the concrete and metal supports were only spotted when work started on surveying for the Archway Project.

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Water has been doing a lot of damage to the road supports over the years.

This is a multi-million-pound scheme to provide both World Heritage and Learning Centres and opening up areas of the Roman Baths not seen by the public before.

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A section through the underground passageways which will link the Archway Project with the Roman Baths.

The World Heritage Centre will contain imaginative displays that explain why the World Heritage site of Bath is so special. Admission will be free for everyone.

The project will also open up areas of Roman remains that have never before been open for regular public access, including a rare laconicum (sauna) and an exercise courtyard, revealing fascinating new aspects of the ancient site.

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How the area under York Street may look when the work is finished and the public let in.

The £5m development will be housed in former Victorian spa buildings in Swallow Street and York Street, next to the Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths Learning Centre will be a fully accessible, state-of-the-art centre where school children will participate in exciting hands-on sessions with Roman artefacts and where projects and activities will be run for members of the local community. It will be linked to the Roman Baths via an underground tunnel. 

The cost of the work is being helped by a grant of £3.4 million pounds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other funding is being raised elsewhere.

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Water has been seeping through into the passageways beneath York Street and causing metal to rust and expand within the concrete road supports.

In clearing the way for the roof support work to be done many hundreds of tons of Roman masonry has had to be moved. Archaeologists have also cleared away spoil left over from earlier excavations.

Excavations at Roman Bath stretch back over 200 years to the efforts of 18th-century antiquarians.

It is, however, the excavations of 1978-1983, directed by Peter Davenport and Barry Cunliffe, that have given us the most detailed account of the site.

After the work to shore up the road has been completed the archaeologists will return to do some new ‘digs’.

The project is in the hands of the professional members of Cotswold Archaeology – with help from volunteers from Bath and Counties Archaeological Society.

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The strips of mosaic recently discovered.

It was one of their members – Fiona Medland – who found several strips of previously unknown mosaic.

Professor Cunliffe has now come back to see them and to inspect – with the help of much better lighting than he originally had – the cleaned-up results of his previous work.

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Professor Barry Cunliffe pictured on his recent visit.

Seems – with the aid of modern techniques – he has been revising some of his original finds in terms of their place in the time-scale of the development and revision of the bathing complex.

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Professor Barry Cunliffe revisits his excavation site.

I’ve been down under York Street for a chat with The Roman Baths and Pump Room Manager, Stephen Clews.