Roman through Sydney Gardens

I wonder if you knew that Sydney Gardens – created as a Georgian pleasure park – also has an earlier history as a Roman burial ground.

sydney gardens
The central path – looking up to the Loggia


A free event called The Deathly Secrets of Sydney Gardens is being organised by the Roman Baths and Sydney Gardens as part of the nationwide Festival of Archaeology. The event will take place on Saturday 20 July from 11am to 3pm.

During the event, the public will find out about an important Roman, whose tombstone was discovered by Georgians building the new Pleasure Gardens. Visitors will be able to have a go at stone carving with Harry Brockway, who will be replicating the letters from the tombstone, and the spot where the tombstone was found will be marked on the ground.


Discover what we know about Roman burial practices and how they differed from prehistoric and medieval beliefs, and handle objects found in Bath by archaeologists.

There will be a craft area where people can use coloured paper to make flowers, which have been associated with death and burial through the ages; a chance to have a go at being an archaeologist and seeing how many bones of the body you can identify; and a ‘Rot or Not’ activity, where people will be able to find out which objects survive after burial.

At 1.30pm there will be a talk by historian Dr Helen Frisby from the University of the West of England, who will explore English funeral customs since the medieval era and how we continue nowadays to relate to death, dying and the dead. The talk will take place in the Holburne Museum’s Clore Room – just turn up, no booking required. There will also be a chance to meet the Sydney Gardens archaeologist and find out more about the archaeology of the area.

Cllr Paul Crossley, cabinet member for Heritage and Community.

Councillor Paul Crossley, cabinet member for Community Services at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “It’s great that the Roman Baths and Sydney Gardens have teamed up to reveal the forgotten history of the area, with fun and fascinating activities that people can come and enjoy for free. Both venues have recently been awarded National Lottery Heritage Fund grants, which will enable them to offer even more creative community events like this in the future.”

The nationwide Festival of Archaeology is organised by the Council for British Archaeology. For more information visit

About Sydney Gardens

Sydney Gardens first opened in 1795 and were a favourite spot of Jane Austen. The project to restore the Gardens will involve extensive heritage and wildlife conservation work and areas of the park that are currently closed to the public will be reopened.

Historic features including the Loggia, Minerva’s Temple and the Edwardian toilets will be restored. Flower gardens will be replanted and wildlife habitats and viewpoints will be improved. The three-year project to restore the Gardens is being enhanced with a year-round programme of activities and events.

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