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

 

Heritage half-term fun on offer in Bath.

Heritage half-term fun on offer in Bath.

Hands-on, half-term fun for families coming up at the Bath & North East Somerset Council-run Roman Baths, Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery.

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The Roman Baths.

Kids can get creative and a make laurel crown, add sparkle to a royal tiara, design a Georgian hat, dress like a Roman in a toga, or create a stylish sedan chair.

All activities are included in the normal admission price. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Councillor Paul Myers, (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield) cabinet member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “There’s something for children of all ages to do in our museums over the half-term holidays. The great news for local families is that all activities are free for Bath & North East Somerset residents with a Discovery Card. We hope this will encourage local parents and carers to sign up for a Discovery Card if they don’t already have one, as well as attracting new visitors into our museums.”

Togas and Tunics

The Roman Baths

Saturday 10, Sunday 11, Saturday 17, Sunday 18 February 2018, 10am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4pm

Find out how the Romans dressed and try on a toga.

Caesar’s Secrets

The Roman Baths

Monday 12-Friday 16 February 2018, 10am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4pm

Learn about Julius Caesar and use his secret code to make a Roman laurel crown.

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Fashion Museum Bath

Top It Off

Fashion Museum Bath

Thursday 15 February 2018, 10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm

Top off your outfit by creating a tiara, crown or sash and explore the new Royal Women exhibition.

Hats Off to Bath

Victoria Art Gallery

Wednesday 14 February 2018, 10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm

Turn yourself into a Georgian with hats and headgear. Ages 3 to 7.

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The Rotunda at the top of the staircase in the Victoria Art Gallery.

Go Out in Style

Victoria Art Gallery

Friday 16 February 2018, 10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm

Create a sedan chair fit for a king. Ages 6 to 11.

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One of the genuine articles. On display at the Assembly Rooms.

www.romanbaths.co.uk

www.fashionmuseum.co.uk

www.victoriagal.org.uk

 

 

Uncovering history while you watch!

Uncovering history while you watch!

Archaeologists have just begun the largest excavations seen at the Roman Baths for thirty years and residents and visitors are being given the chance to watch them at work!

The 20-minute tours will run at regular intervals throughout February and will give people access to the excavations taking place in vaults which are not normally open to the public.

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The archaeological investigation underway.

 

The work is taking place as part of the Archway Project, which will create a new Clore Learning Centre for the Roman Baths (romanbaths.co.uk/archway).

The tours are free with admission to the Roman Baths, however, visitors can give a small, optional donation to the Roman Baths Foundation (charity number 1163044) to support the excavations.

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Seems at least part of this Roman town was painted red!

Highlights of the new tours will include:

  • A Roman exercise area, which will be part of a new Investigation Zone, in which schoolchildren will be able to carry out research in and amongst Roman remains when it opens in 2019.
  • An in-situ stylobate – a collonaded 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.
  • A Roman culvert, and pipework and drains from Georgian and Victorian times.
  • A wall where you can see archaeological deposits (stratigraphy) dating back 2,000 years.

Councillor Paul Myers, Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “The tours are a great chance for visitors to go behind the scenes, meet archaeologists and possibly watch them at work discovering even more about the history of our treasured Roman Baths. It’s also great for any Bath and North East Somerset residents with a Discovery Card because these archaeology tours are free with the card.”

 

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 Claudia Jorge is an archaeologist with Cotswold Archaeology.

 

Although modest in scale, this will be the most significant archaeological work to have taken place on the site since Sir Barry Cunliffe’s investigations in the 1970s and 1980s.

Professional archaeologists will lead the excavations, supported by local volunteers from the Bath & Camerton Archaeological Society.

They will begin by carrying out ground radar and resistivity surveys, before opening up a number of trenches and re-excavating some 19th and 20th century drains. This will allow them to investigate the deposits through which the drains were dug.

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Archaeologist, Nathan Chinchen will also be working on the Roman Baths site.

A small programme of archaeological works took place in September 2017 and unearthed some exciting finds: three Roman coins and a Roman nail cleaner with a rare peacock design.

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

www.bathnes.gov.uk/discoverycard

 

 

Going underground.

Going underground.

I joined around a dozen Bath traders from the York Street area last night on a fact-finding mission – above and below ground level.

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Our traders are in Swallow Street and outside the old laundry building.

These are business people who share their location with the Roman Baths complex – one of the city’s main tourist attractions – and a valuable source of revenue for our cash-strapped local authority.

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In the distant middle are Stephen Bird – Head of Heritage Services – on the left and the Roman Baths Manager, Stephen Clews on the right. They are surrounded by York Street traders and starting their tour of the old spa building on the corner of Swallow Street. The ground floor is currently let as a shop selling leather furniture.

In the new year, a major project gets underway to extend the ruins visible to the public and create a World Heritage Centre and Roman Baths Learning Centre that will show people why Bath is so special and inspire them to go out and explore the archaeology and architecture that has given the city World Heritage status.

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An image taken from the Roman Baths website at http://www.romanbaths.co.uk

Along with Venice,  we are one of only two Europeans cities to be awarded this UNESCO accolade.

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The decorative archway in York Street

It’s officially called The Archway Project – after the decorative stone bridge across York Street which was built to hide the pipes carrying spa water back and forth to the former Victorian Spa building and city laundry that will now be converted.

While this operation will be costing five million – with the help of a 3.4 million pound Heritage Lottery Fund donation – the Council is also faced with an additional expense.

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Some of the massive beams supporting the road above.

Clearing the passages under York Street – to prepare for next year – revealed there was a problem with the beams supporting the road. Water – seeping through from the surface – has been eating away at the supports and many of them will need strengthening or replacing.

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There’s plenty of evidence in the passageway under York Street of the damaging water seeping through from above.

On top of this, the road itself will have to come up so a waterproof membrane can be laid to stop any further ingress.

All of this is going to be disruptive to neighbouring traders who – while recognising the benefits of an increased footfall in the future – will have to put up with a certain amount of construction work outside their doors for several years.

Meanwhile, the Roman Baths isn’t the only major body getting work done from next year. Neighbouring Bath Abbey will begin the task of taking up its floor – section by section – for stabilisation work and installing a new heating system and other facilities.

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Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths are located next to each other.

 

There’s going to be construction traffic everywhere and traders were not slow to voice their concerns and ask to be involved in the planning of the operation.

Kelvin Packer – Group Manager for Highways and Traffic – told them it would take around six weeks to do the road and that they would work with traders to minimise disruption. He assured them that they would not end up with a huge hole in York Street and that the strengthening work would be done from below.

While it was the Council’s policy to make Bath as pedestrian and cycle-friendly as possible – and limit traffic – without the repairs being carried out it was doubtful if the street could continue to support heavy vehicles like fire appliances or rubbish lorries.

Mr Packer said the Council had a duty to inspect its basements and cellars on a regular basis. As this is a city built on basements and cellars maybe everyone else should so do too. How long before a bus or coach goes through one?

While Stephen Bird – who is Head of Heritage Services – gave a preliminary introduction to the project – it was Stephen Clews – the Roman Baths and Pump Room Manager – who took us on a tour of the passageway under York Street.

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Archaeologists will also be able to sift through an untouched historical layer of earth built up over the centuries.

Here there has been a massive emptying operation of heavy Roman masonry to clear the site. In January archaeologists will begin a three-month dig. The main contractor will then get down to business at Easter.

Bath Newseum caught up with Stephen to tell us more.

 

Next year’s timetable begins with three months worth of underground archaeology and then work on repairing the road beams will take place between April and August.

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An image taken from the Roman Baths website at wwww.romanbaths.co.uk

The above groundwork – and that includes creating the World Heritage Centre and other educational resources will being in June and run through to May 2019. The additional archaeological facilities – a Roman exercise yard and a specially heated room called a Laconicum – will be opened to the public in July 2019.

Find out more via www.romanbaths.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Flaming success

Flaming success

 

The Roman Baths notched up record visitor numbers for their Torchlit Summer Evenings this year. There were 55,203 evening visitors, up from approximately 40,000 in 2016 and 33,000 in 2015.

Each summer, the Roman Baths stays open until 10pm every evening, offering visitors the chance to beat the crowds and soak up the special atmosphere around the torchlit Great Bath.Baths

Due to its popularity, evening opening was extended this year, starting two weeks earlier than usual, on Saturday, June 17, and running until the end of August. The pricing structure was also changed to make it cheaper to visit after 5pm.

Various packages were available, enabling visitors to combine their visit to the Roman Baths with dinner at The Pump Room or Roman Baths Kitchen, or a visit to Thermae Bath Spa.

Admission to the Roman Baths is free for Bath & North East Somerset residents with a Discovery Card, and this year 1,171 local people used their Discovery Cards to visit on a summer evening.

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield), Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “We’re delighted with the continued success of Torchlit Summer Evenings at the Roman Baths. The extended opening hours contribute to the tourism economy of Bath and the wider district, while helping to avoid overcrowding during the daytime.”

“The evenings are also a great opportunity for local people to explore the Roman Baths outside of normal opening hours, and I’m pleased that well over 1,000 people used their Discovery Cards to visit in the evening for free.”

Comments in the visitor book included:

  • Very romantic by torchlight and so much inspiring history. Brilliant, just brilliant.
  • Sunday evening, fabulous! Not too crowded, atmospheric and great tour guide.
  • Brilliant idea to open in the evening
  • Baths look beautiful at night and a fabulous tour

Next year’s Torchlit Summer Evenings will begin on 16 June 2018 and run until the end of August 2018.

www.romanbaths.co.uk

For information about Discovery Cards please visit www.bathnes.gov.uk/discoverycard.

 

 

 

Pitching it differently.

Pitching it differently.

So what’s the gossip – this Friday, September 29th. Well for starters, l am hearing all those Christmas Market regulars who have grown accustomed to the same pitch each year have just had a bit of a shock.

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Part of last year’s Christmas Market

They are being moved around bit. I think things got confused with work alongside the Abbey and the possibility of structural work in York Street. So its a slightly different street plan.

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Stalls around the Abbey this year.

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Stalls in Bath Street are extended and there seems to be a Zone 2 in Southgate Street.

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Here’s the whole planned layout.

Meanwhile with the Christmas Market in mind – the scaffolding company responsible for the work on the old Empire Hotel has been told the poles can’t come down until after the Christmas business is finished around the now luxury block of apartments.

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So the scaffolding stays into the New Year?

Seems there’s no room – with safety in mind – for the dismantling teams and their lorries.

A few years ago much money was raised  by auctioning the Bladud’s pigs that were dotted around the city. One was in place outside Bath Abbey until quite recently.

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One of those pigs that raised so much for charity.

I am hearing there is a possibility of another set of colourful street creatures. This time owls.

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Bath’s springs were dedicated to the Celtic goddess Sulis which the Romans identified with their own goddess Minerva. Her greek counterpart is Athena who was often depicted with an owl – symbol of wisdom.

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The pediment of the temple to Sulis Minerva with its Gorgon head – also contains the head of a tiny owl. It’s in the bottom right hand corner of the piece of stone with the Gorgon’s head.. The rest is missing but it was almost certainly perched on top of another helmet.

Shining a light on history

Shining a light on history

The Roman Baths will host a special evening of archaeological discovery, ‘Bath’s Archaeology by Torchlight’, on Monday 17 July, 5-9pm. The event is part of the national Festival of Archaeology (www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk).

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Visitors of all ages will be able to explore the Roman Baths museum and see the torchlit Great Bath. There’ll be a range of archaeology-themed activities to try, including having a go at identifying archaeological objects.

A new digital heritage mapping project, Know Your Place West of England (www.kypwest.org.uk), will also be on display, allowing visitors to see how Bath and North East Somerset has changed over time by comparing historic and modern maps of the area.

Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones, (Conservative, Lansdown) Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for people to find out about our local archaeology and explore the Roman Baths by torchlight. The event is free for Bath and North East Somerset residents with a Discovery Card.”

Children must be accompanied by an adult. Normal admission charges apply (free for local Discovery Card holders). Roman Baths tickets can be booked online at www.romanbaths.co.uk.