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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

The Emperor’s new clothes!

The Emperor’s new clothes!

Can’t blame a Roman emperor for trying to protect himself from the cold on a crisp and sunny winter morning with the temperature hovering around zero.

Though in the case of some of the emperors and governors of Provincia Britannia, who are represented in local stone around the edges of the Great Bath, the protection has been applied by conservators working to stabilise the condition of the statues.


All wrapped up against the cold. This is a statue that has been protected against frost after receiving some conservation work involving material that has to dry out naturally without getting frozen!

Many visitors to the Roman  Baths think these figures are the work of the same masons who carved the facade to the ancient Temple of Minerva – preserved here below ground – but these are actually adornments added to these newly-discovered excavated remains when they were opened to the Victorian public in 1897.


The array of Victorian statues surrounding the Great Bath.

The eight figures – in Bath stone – were the work of Scottish-born sculptor George Anderson Lawson – who also carved the friezes of classical figures at either end of the Guildhall.


The Guildhall

We’ve got  emperors Claudius, Hadrian, Constantine the Great, Vespasian and Julius Caesar. His statue though is a 1989 replacement by Laurence Tindall following a rare outbreak of vandalism which toppled the original.


Conservator, Douglas Carpenter at work.

We musn’t forget the three generals. Ostorius Sacula – defeater of Caractacus – Suetonius Paulinus – who put down Boudicca’s rebellion – and Agricola.

Every ten years or so conservators are called in to check on their condition and make necessary repairs.

Cracks can be filled, moss removed and lime washes added to provide a protective coat.

It’s skilled work  as conservator Douglas Carpenter – from Kilmersdon-based  Cliveden Conservation Workshop – explained.


Keynsham’s Roman history on display

Keynsham’s Roman history on display

Roman mosaic panels from the Durley Hill Roman villa will go on display in Bath & North East Somerset Council’s new Keynsham development when it opens later this year. You can see how they are being cleaned and conserved by expert conservators from Cliveden Conservation in preparation for that display at a free event on Saturday 10 May.

Roman mosaics

Roman mosaics

On this open day – held at the Pixash Lane Archaeology Store – you can see conservation work in action and get up close to the marvellous mosaics discovered when the cemetery was extended in the 1920s.

An illustration featuring Europa and the bull!

An illustration featuring Europa and the bull!

You can talk to the conservators working on the project and curatorial staff from the Roman Baths will be on hand to talk about the style and significance of the mosaics and about other recent archaeological discoveries in the Keynsham area.

At the same time you will be able to explore other archaeological finds from Keynsham including decorative stonework from the Medieval Abbey, as well as finds and some unusual graffiti rescued from the Combe Down Stone Mines before they were filled in during the stabilisation works.

Another Abbey relic.

Another Abbey relic.

Young people can also have fun looking for objects on our trail through the archaeological store and designing their own Medieval floor tiles

Cllr Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet member for Sustainable Development, said: “Whilst the public has witnessed Bath & North East Somerset Council’s ongoing Keynsham town centre development, work has also been going on behind the scenes to prepare the Durley Hill villa mosaics for display. This gives local people a great opportunity to see some of that work in progress, ask questions about local archaeology and meet some of the people involved in the project.”

The Archaeology Store is next to the recycling centre on Pixash Lane and will be open to the public from 11am to 3pm.