Was this how Bath’s Norman Cathedral looked?

Could images discovered on medieval tiles, which have just been found under the floor of Bath Abbey, give a clue to how the West Front – of the huge Norman church that once stood on this spot – actually looked?

One of the decorated tiles lying within the medieval tiled floor buried two metres (6.5 ft) beneath the recently excavated floor at the east end of Bath Abbey. Could this have been the West Front of the Norman Cathedral that once stood here?

The current building dates from the end of the 15th century and stands on part of the foundations of a great cathedral which was consecrated in the middle of the 12th century.

We don’t know what it looked like but the footings tell us it was around 330 feet long and – like putting your foot in sand – it has left an impression for experts to work out is floor plan.

The current Abbey stands on the foundations of just the nave end of the cathedral.

Currently, Wessex Archaeology are involved in rescue archaeology ahead of the multi-million pound Footprint Project which will see local-builders Emery Brothers spending the next two years stabilising the church’s floor.

Contractors and archaeologists at work.

With nearly nine thousand people buried under the Abbey floor large pockets of empty space have formed and there is a real danger of parts of the floor collapsing.

IMG_0106 2
Stratchey Conservation experts will be busy over the next two years repairing and conserving the memorial stones that will be lifted – area by area.

While they do the work, lifted ledger stones are been conserved and will be relaid after underfloor heating has been installed – using energy from the thermal springs feeding the Roman Baths.

Here’s a fragment of another decorated medieval tiles. Again its a west front but this time with a pitched roof between the towers. Is it another version of the former Norman cathedral?

But – back to those medieval tiles. Time to let Cai Mason – from Wessex Archaeology – explain how they came to be found.

IMG_0108 2
Some lucky locals will get a chance to see the excavations for themselves next month over three days and as part of the Heritage Open Days scheme. You have to book. Future regular tours are being considered.

1 Comment

  1. What an amazing exercise this floor excavation is, who knows what else will be found. Maybe something major from the Roman period, those tiles found are so well preserved! Thanks Richard for the short film. I look forward to the next discovery!

Comments are closed.