Barry returns for new look at Roman Baths.

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.

 

New mosaic uncovered at Roman Baths

New mosaic uncovered at Roman Baths

The earliest mosaic ever found at the Roman Baths in Bath has been discovered during excavations taking place in advance of the Archway Project, which will extend the public access into a new area of the site.

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The uncovered mosaic

The mosaic was found by local volunteer Fiona Medland who is part of the team of volunteers from the Bath & Camerton Archaeological Society (BACAS) that are helping professional archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology to carry out the dig.

Fiona said ‘Finding the mosaic was the luck of being allocated “the sewer” to clean up. I thought it was just the edge of the door threshold until it dried a bit and showed all the individual tesserae [cubes of stone]. So I cleaned it up further and revealed a couple of rows, totally stunned. I have been helping BACAS for 10 years now, this is my first real find and a dream come true. Thank you all for allowing us to partake in this fabulous project, I know everyone has enjoyed it.’

The mosaic was found in the threshold of a Roman room. So far, just a few of the small cubes of stone that make up the floor have been uncovered. They are a creamy buff colour and are made from local stone. They are small in size, about 1 centimetre square, and carefully laid.

Stephen Clews, Manager of the Roman Baths said, ‘A mosaic in this position is likely to be plain or with only a simple geometric design.  Although we only have a few cubes of stone to go on we can confirm that from its position in the building sequence this must be the earliest mosaic yet known from the site, dating to the later first century AD.

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Another view of the uncovered mosaic.

It shows that right from its inception the Roman Baths was furnished with all the trappings of a very fine establishment.

We will discuss with Historic England how we should approach any further uncovering of the mosaic.’

The Archway Project is a major development delivering the new Clore Learning Centre, an extended public viewing area for the Roman Baths and a new World Heritage Centre for the city. The project is being carried out by Bath & North East Somerset Council, the owner and operator of the site.

Councillor Paul Myers, (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield), Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “This is a very exciting discovery and we look forward to finding out more about the mosaic. When the new Clore Learning Centre and World Heritage Centre open in 2019, everyone – from school children to visitors – will be able to learn more about the fascinating history of Bath and the Roman Baths in state-of-the-art surroundings.”

The Archway Project is supported by National Lottery players through a £3.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

For more information go to www.romanbaths.co.uk

 

Uncovering more of Roman Bath

Uncovering more of Roman Bath

The Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society have been busy under York Street – helping prepare a part of the Roman Baths complex – normally unseen by the public – for upcoming excavations. However, during February, there will be special tours for people to watch the ‘dig’ in action.

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BACAS at work on the site under York Street.

Volunteers from BACAS have been carrying out geophysical survey work – using various techniques including resistivity profiling – to try and locate the route of a Roman culvert and identify any other underground features.

They have also been using temperature measurements to try and identify any hot spots on the ground that might suggest the presence of hot spring water beneath.

The survey work has revealed some interesting results. There is a lot of variation in materials below the Roman floor levels, which suggests the Romans were doing a lot below ground in this area of the site. This includes the presence of drains that would have drained water from the baths.

The results are currently being analysed and interpreted.

Meanwhile this month, as part of the Archway Project – new tours will take visitors behind the scenes to see the largest archaeological excavations at the Roman Baths for more than 30 years.8062afa1-7e81-4595-8ef2-3c9ccef8bcf0

Highlights will include:

  • Trenches that are being excavated by the archaeologists
  • A Roman exercise area
  • An in-situ stylobate – a colonnaded walkway which contains a Roman doorway leading through to a possible row of shops, where traders might have sold memorabilia to visitors, oil for the sauna, or food and drink
  • The other side of the south wall of the Great Bath, behind the curved alcoves (exedra) where people relaxed

The areas being excavated will be transformed as part of the Archway Project into an exciting archaeological investigation zone where schoolchildren will be able to participate in hands-on archaeological activities, due to open in 2019.

The tours, that will run every 30 minutes throughout February from 10.10am-3.40pm, will be free with admission to the Roman Baths. Please give a small, optional donation to the Roman Baths Foundation to support the excavations. (Charity number: 1163044).

Roman removal men!

Roman removal men!

When it comes to calling in the removal men – there is one particular job in Bath that really takes the cake.

Cliveden Conservation were contacted by B&NES to help the Roman Baths to carefully empty their subterranean store below York Street of hundreds of large fragments of Roman Masonry.

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The removal operation is underway in passages lying beneath the road surface of York Street

This is in order to enable repairs to be carried out to strengthen the structure supporting the York Street carriageway which has been assessed as having inherent weaknesses.

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The specially created gangway to enable the blocks of masonry to be taken out across the footings of two original Roman walls.

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Part of the original roof above the Great Bath.

It’s an operation that involves lifting and moving stones weighing up to ¾ of a tonne – 750kgs – and moving them across a specially-created scaffold pathway – laid across the top of important Roman remains –  then up through a small staircase and out of the side Swallow Street access to the Baths complex.

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Some of the pieces of masonry that have to be moved.

The material is being stored at the Council’s Pixash Lane Archaeological Depot in Keynsham until the work is done.

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The stored material has been taken to the Pixash Lane Depot in Keynsham.

The area being cleared will eventually form part of the Archway Project – an ambitious undertaking, with Heritage Lottery funding, which will create  new Learning and World Heritage Centres in nearby buildings – and open up archaeological areas of the Roman complex not previously seen by the wider public.

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A model showing the proposed conversion of the old laundry in to a Learner Centre and World Heritage Centre.

I asked Andy Hebden from Cliveden Conservation to explain exactly what they were doing.

‘Adopt’ a Roman stone

‘Adopt’ a Roman stone

The Roman Baths Foundation has launched an Adopt a Stone scheme to help raise funds for the building of a state-of-the-art Roman Baths Learning Centre as part of the Archway Project (www.romanbaths.co.uk/archway). 

Donors can adopt a variety of stones, which all tell a story about the Roman Baths’ past. Prices range from £100 to £1,000 depending on the stone’s size and historical significance. The special stones, which are not yet on display, are currently lying in an undercroft, which will soon be transformed into the new Roman Baths Learning Centre.

Following a grant of £3.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the £5m Archway Project has now secured more than 95% of its total funding. The Adopt a Stone project will help raise the final £250,000 needed and enable work to start in 2017.

David Beeton, Chairman of the Roman Baths Foundation, a charitable company set up to raise funds for conservation and education work at the Roman Baths, said: “These stones are truly magnificent. Adopting a stone will help the Roman Baths to discover and share each stone’s fascinating past with the young people who will visit the Learning Centre when it opens in 2019.”

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An artists impression of how the new Archway Project might look.

Donors will be thanked for their support in a variety of ways depending on the size of the donation. This might include i­nvitations to special events, opportunities to see the conservation of their chosen stone in progress, and acknowledgments on-site at the Roman Baths Learning Centre and/or in launch publicity materials.

Adopting a stone will support conservators to clean, move and display some of these unique stones for young people to investigate in the new Roman Baths Learning Centre and Investigation Zone.

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The Archway Project will open up areas of the Roman Baths not seen by the public before.

Situated above the former spa laundry in Swallow Street, the new facilities will increase the space dedicated to education at the Roman Baths by 400%. Two new classrooms will enable the Roman Baths to develop formal and informal learning programmes, engaging a wide range of communities and audiences. 

The new Learning Centre will be connected to the Roman Baths by an undercroft that passes through Roman remains beneath York Street. An underground Investigation Zone will provide hands-on access to Roman remains through facilitated learning sessions. 

The Roman Baths welcomes visits from potential donors who would like to see the stones before they are moved. For more information visit www.romanbaths.co.uk/adopt-roman-stone.

 

‘Milestone’ charity grant for Roman Baths Archway Project

‘Milestone’ charity grant for Roman Baths Archway Project

 

The Archway Project at the Roman Baths has received a grant of £75,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, a major milestone in funding for the building of a state-of-the-art Roman Baths Learning Centre.

Situated above the former spa laundry in Swallow Street, the new facilities will increase the space dedicated to education at the Roman Baths by 400%. Two new classrooms will enable the Roman Baths to develop formal and informal learning programmes, engaging a wide range of communities and audiences.

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An artists impression of how the new Archway Project might look.

The new Learning Centre will be connected to the Roman Baths by an undercroft that passes through Roman remains beneath York Street. An underground Investigation Zone will provide hands-on access to Roman remains through facilitated learning sessions.

The Learning Centre will give more school children a higher standard of facilities and enable the Roman Baths to reach out to a wider variety of people locally and regionally with a range of new learning experiences.

The Roman Baths Foundation is a charitable company set up to raise funds for conservation and education work at the Roman Baths. Fundraising for the Archway Project is its first flagship project.

David Beeton, Chairman of the Roman Baths Foundation, said: “The Foundation is delighted that its efforts to raise funding for a state-of-the-art Learning Centre for the Roman Baths have been supported so enthusiastically by the Garfield Weston Foundation.”

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The Archway Project will open up areas of the Roman Baths not seen by the public before.

The Director of the Garfield Weston Foundation, Philippa Charles, said; “We are delighted to be supporting this project, which will improve the learning experience for those who visit the Baths, which are such an important part of the UK’s heritage.”

The Learning Centre is the largest element in a project that also includes a World Heritage Centre and new access to Roman remains beneath York Street that have never before been on public display.

The Roman Baths has submitted a second stage application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to secure a grant of nearly £3.5 million towards the £5 million project. The HLF is due to make a decision later this year.

If the fundraising target is achieved, building work will start in summer 2017 and the new Learning Centre and World Heritage Centre will open in early 2019.

For more information visit www.romanbaths.co.uk/archway

 

For your information:

The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded charitable grant-making foundation which supports a wide range of causes across the UK, donating over £58million in the most recent financial year.

It was established in 1958 by Willard Garfield Weston and since then has donated over £900million, becoming one of the largest and most respected charitable institutions in the UK.

The trustees are descendants of the founder and the Weston Family takes a highly active and hands-on approach.

www.garfieldweston.org

 

It’s a green light for Archway Project.

It’s a green light for Archway Project.

Not surprisingly perhaps, B&NES has given its  Archway Project – which includes the creation of a new Learning Centre for the Roman Baths in Swallow Street and a World Heritage Centre at 10 York Street –  full planning permission and listed building consent.

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.

Now they’ve just got to hope the Heritage Lottery Fund comes up with the bulk of the money.

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An artists impression of how the new Archway Project might look.

The Learning Centre will also feature an investigation zone set amongst Roman remains, where school children will be able to explore and record archaeological materials, with an excavation area where they will be able to unearth replica Roman objects. This space will be used for family events at weekends and during the school holidays.

The World Heritage Centre will contain imaginative displays that explain why the World Heritage Site of Bath is so special and will encourage people to explore the heritage around the city. 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 laconicum (sauna) and exercise courtyard.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “We are delighted that planning permission and listed building consent have been granted for the Archway Project. The project will transform learning at the Roman Baths and create a world-class visitor centre where people can find out more about our World Heritage City, as well as opening up new parts of the Roman Baths for public access.”  

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The Archway Project will open up areas of the Roman Baths not seen by the public before.

The Roman Baths has submitted a second stage application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to secure a grant of nearly £3.5 million towards the £5 million project. The HLF is due to make a decision later this year.

If the fundraising target is achieved, building work will start in summer 2017 and the new Learning Centre and World Heritage Centre will open in early 2019. This will be followed by a programme of activities and events for local communities, school children and visitors.

For more information about the Archway Project visit www.romanbaths.co.uk/archway-project.  

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Heritage Grants applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery