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Roman Baths

Bath, Somerset

Featured Location Guide

"A part of the World Heritage Site - City of Bath"

Bath or Aquae Sulis was a small town in the Roman province of Britannia and was a religious settlement which was given defensive stone walls, probably in the 3rd century. The area within the walls was largely open ground initially but soon began to be filled in. The Romans were probably in occupation from around 43AD attracted by the natural hot spring which had been a shrine to the Celtic Brythons and dedicated to their goddess Sulis. The Spring is a natural mineral spring and the Baths were built up around it and an adjoining temple was also built. Today they can be viewed in the centre of the city.

The Romans identified with Minerva their goddess of water, however the name Sulis continued to be used after the Roman invasion, leading to the town's Roman name of Aquae Sulis (literally, "the waters of Sulis"). The adjoining temple was constructed in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years. During the Roman occupation of Britain, engineers drove oak piles to provide a stable foundation into the mud and surrounded the spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead. In the 2nd century it was further modified and enclosed within a wooden barrel-vaulted building, which included three baths, the caldarium (hot bath), tepidarium (warm bath), and frigidarium (cold bath). After the Romans left in the fifth century, they fell into disrepair and were eventually lost due to silting up. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, suggests the original Roman baths were destroyed in the 6th century.

 

Roman Bath

Over the centuries since the baths have been modified a number times and what we see today is housed in an 18th century building. Visitors of the 18th century would drink the waters in the Pump Room. In 1810 the hot springs appeared to dry up, but a new Hot Bath spring was opened up to the bottom of the complex where it was found that the spring had not dried up but merely flowed into a new channel, so it was restored to its original course and the baths filled once more.

When you visit today you enter via the concert hall built in 1897, opposite the west door of Bath Abbey. It is a continuation of the Grand Pump Room with a glass domed centre. Look up and you will see the ceiling is decorated with images of the four seasons and is domed.

The Roman Baths are below street level and has four main features, the:

Entrance from street

Sacred Spring Andrew Dunn,

Sacred Spring, at the heart of the site for thousands of years it has been providing hot water to the baths at a temperature of 46 degrees centigrade. In Roman times a temple was built next to the spring dedicated to the Goddess Sulis Minerva and the mineral rich water supplied a bath-house,  which attracted visitors from across the Roman Empire. Today it provides water to the Kings Bath which was built in the 12th century using the Roman Spring building as it's foundations.

The Roman Temple, only one of two known classical temples from Roman Britain. It is where the statue of the goddess  Sulis Minerva was housed. It stood on a podium more than 2 metres above the surrounding courtyard and was approached by a flight of steps. It was an impressive building with 4 large fluted Corinthian columns at front and is believed to have been built in the 1st century. It was modified in the later part of the 2nd century and is believed to have remained a focal point of worship up to the 4th century until it was ordered to close, eventually falling into disrepair and then collapsing. The ornamental pediment which was supported by the 4 columns did survive and today it has been re-erected in the Roman Baths Museum.

The Roman bath house and finds from Roman Bath. The Great Bath is the centerpiece of the Roman baths and is filled with hot spa water. It once stood in a barrel-vaulted hall that rose to a height of 40 metres. The Bath itself is 1.6 metres deep and has steps leading down on all sides, the niches you can see would have held benches for bathers to sit on or to rest their drinks.  A visit in the afternoon between 1pm and 4pm will see costumed characters around the Great Bath. There are two rooms off to the sides, the changing rooms and saunas to the east  where you will see a a sequence of heated rooms, a swimming pool and a changing room, and a display on Roman bathing throughout the Empire, and the heated rooms and plunge pools on the west side. Here you see a sequence of pools and heated rooms with a good surviving hypocaust pilae showing how the heating system would have worked. There is also a cold circular plunge pool which is also 1.6 metres deep. There have been many finds on this site and throughout the exhibition you will see displays of many objects including coins which were found in the Sacred Spring. There is also a museum which contains items that tell us a bit more about the people who lived, worked and visited the baths and Aquae Sulis, there are a number of tombstones on display as well as altars which have been found in the area.

Other features include the terrace, temple courtyard, the spring overflow and a display of the people of Aquae Sulis.

Caldarium or Hypocaust

The Circular Bath

The Georgian Pump Room is on the ground level and is primarily today a restaurant where you can get refreshments and listen to the Pump Room Trio who are playing most days, when they are not then a pianist plays as well as at every lunch time. It is neo-classical salon where hot Spa water is drawn for drinking and you can try the hot Spa Water from a fountain. It contains 43 minerals and has an unusual taste. Today they use the Spa Water for heating the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms in the winter.


Further information Grid

 

Location:

Roman Baths and Pump Room, Bath, Somerset

Ceremonial County: Somerset

Grid Reference:

ST750647

Map Link:

Multimap

Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo      Multimap Aerial Photo

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

 

E-mail:

romanbaths_bookings@bathnes.gov.uk

Website:

Roman Baths website

Other useful websites:

Wiki

Wiki2,

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages: Roman Britain

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

 

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Planning Grid

Location:

Roman Baths and Pump Room, Bath, Somerset

Grid Reference:

ST750647

Getting there:

From M4 J18 follow the A46 for 8 miles then join the A4 and follow the signs to the city centre car parks.

Access:

In the centre of Bath, in Abbey Church Yard. The Baths are 6 metres below street level and there are many steps throughout the site.

Parking:

No specific car park - however plenty of parking within Bath city centre area.

Facilities:

toilets, shop, museum

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

 

What to take:

wide angle lens

Nature highlights:

 

Address:

Roman Baths

Abbey Church Yard,

Bath

Postcode:

BA1 1LZ

Telephone:

01225 477 785

Opening times:

Open Daily except for 25 and 26th December.

Jan-Feb 9.30am-4.30pm; Mar-Jun 9am-5pm; Jul-Aug 9am-9pm

Sep-Oct 9am-5pm and Nov-Dec 9.30am-4.30pm

Charges:

Adult 11; 65+ and Students 9.50; Child (6-16) 7.20;

Family (2+4) 32; During July & Aug Adults 11.50 rest are same.

Photo Restrictions:

Visitors are welcome to use hand-held cameras and video recorders on site, including the use of flash, for non-commercial photography, permission must be obtained from the museum for the use of tripods.

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Level access from Abbey Church Yard entrance which gives access to most of the ground floor areas and the terrace overlooking the Great Bath. They run open access evenings for wheelchair users where they lay down ramps and allows access to 70% of the site including the Great Bath. See their website for details.
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities: Pushchairs not allowed they have courtesy child carriers available.
Dogs Allowed: No

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By: Keith Park Section: Roman Britain Section Key:
Page Ref: roman_baths Topic: Roman Britain Last Updated: 07/2009
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