Now we know why the ‘thermals’ were in full flow!

It’s the first time l have witnessed Bath’s thermal waters visibly draining into the River Avon from the edge of Parade Gardens – but now l know the reason why it was happening!

Looking across to Parade Gardens from the other side of the River Avon. You can see the steam rising!

I know this hot spring water has passed through a Roman drain that has been doing its job for two thousand years.

Part of the two-thousand-year-old Roman drainage system.

It’s an ancient monument which carries water from the Sacred Spring and Great Bath with branches running from the King Spring and another from the Hetling Spring. They join under York Street before passing Bog Island and under Parade Gardens.

Another shot of the Great Bath only about a third full.

Seems yesterday – Tuesday, March 27th – was the day they decided to empty the Great Bath. Pulling the plug on 250,000 litres of hot water was enough to create a bit of a surge.

The Great Bath is gradually being refilled.

Stephen Clews, the Manager of the Roman Baths, told me:

‘The Great Bath was drained down yesterday for routine cleaning purposes, so this does explain what you saw.

It is drained down several times a year – usually at fairly short notice – as we fit it in between evening function commitments and other out of hours operational activities. We will probably drain down again in early June and then again in September.’

The operation is carried out to deal with the growth of algae and to take out anything visitors may have thrown into the water.

A similar cleaning operation was being carried out on the King’s Bath – formerly the Sacred Spring of the Roman builders of the baths and nearby temple.

Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath
As the water level in the former Sacred Spring falls you can see two of the pedestals that would have supported Roman gods. Photo : John Cooper.

Fellow Mayor’s Guide John Cooper snatched a couple of shots while he was visiting with a group. Thanks for passing them to us also John!

Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath
Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath. Photo: John Cooper.

Bath’s hot springs have flown through the centuries. Rainwater falling on the hills around the city percolating down to a vast underground lake two miles beneath the surface.

Superheated by the Earth’s core it returns to the surface – under great pressure – through three cracks in the strata. You could fill a bath in eight seconds!



  1. Richard – they were cleaning out the Sacred Spring (?”spring cleaning”?) this morning (Tuesday 27th March) and had drained it almost completely. I assume the extra flow caused the overflow in Parade Gardens. I have some photos to prove it!

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