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Monday, 21-May-2007 21:06 Email | Share | Bookmark
THE ROMAN BATHS at BATH

 
 

the way to Roman Bath



Reception Hall

the Roman Baths and the temple of Aquae Sulis

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From the first century AD to the twentieth, people have been drawn to this place to seek comfort,cure and cleansing in the hot water that rises at its heart.What remains today is a remarkable sequennce of ancient,medieval and later structures that give testimony ti the continuous use of hot water here over nearly 2,000 years




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The Terrace

The Terrace overlooks the Great Bath and is lined with statues of Roman Governors of Britain, Emperors and military leaders. The statues date to 1894, as they were carved in advance of the grand opening of the Roman Baths in 1897.
Many people do not realise that the Roman Baths were not discovered and explored until the late nineteenth century. The view from the Terrace is the first view you have as a visitor to the baths, but remember that what you can see from here is less than a quarter of the site as a whole. A lot of the Roman Baths extend under the modern ground level, beneath adjacent streets and squares, so many visitors are surprised when they discover just how big the site really is.
The Great Bath was the centre piece of the Roman bathing establishment. It was fed with hot water directly from the Sacred Spring and provided an opportunity to enjoy a luxurious warm swim. The bath is lined with 45 thick sheets of lead and is 1.6 metres deep. Access is by four steep steps that entirely surround the bath.

On the centre of the north side there was originally a fountain feature fed by its own lead pipe from the Sacred Spring. At some point this was replaced with a smaller and rather curious fountain which is made from a re-used funerary monument with a hole cut through it to allow the passage of a pipe.

A large flat slab of stone is set across the point where hot water flows into the bath. It is known today as the diving stone and this may have been its original purpose
The bath was originally roofed with a pitched timber construction, but this was replaced in the second century with a much heavier ceramic vault that required strengthened pillars to support it. The result was that the original slender pillars were thickened and projected into the bath itself. No doubt the original architect would have been horrified!



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The King's Bath
The King’s Bath was built, using the lower walls of the Roman Spring building as foundations, in the 12th century. The bath provided niches for bathers to sit in, immersed up to their necks in water. On the south side of the bath is a seat known as the Master of the Baths chair, that was donated in the 17th century.

The Roman Baths is one of the best-preserved Roman sites north of the Alps and at the very heart of the site is the Sacred Spring. Hot water at a temperature of 460C rises here at the rate of 1,170,000 litres (that’s 240,000 gallons) every day and has been doing this for thousands of years.
In the past this natural phenomenon was beyond human understanding and it was believed to be the work of the gods. In Roman times a great Temple was built next to the Spring dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva, a deity with healing powers. The mineral rich water from the Spring supplied a magnificent bath-house which attracted visitors from across the Roman Empire.



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The Spring overflow
The Roman plumbing and drainage system is still largely in place and shows the ingenuity of the Roman engineers.
Lead pipes were used to carry hot spa water around the site using gravity flow.

The Spring overflow is where surplus water from the Spring, not used in the baths, flows out to a Roman drain.

The Roman great drain carries all the Spa water from the site to the River Avon four hundred metres away.

The water flows through a sluice that could be regulated to completely drain the Sacred Spring and give access to the reservoir chamber for maintenance. The same system devised by Roman engineers continues in use today, nearly two thousand years after it was first built.


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The circular bath
A cold plunge bath was a feature of many Roman bath houses, but rarely on this scale! Here you could take an invigorating plunge after treatments in the warm and hot rooms – but you probably would not linger!
The bath is 1.6 metres deep and on one side has an underwater plinth on which a water feature, probably a fountain, once stood.



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The west baths
The western range of the bath house contained a series of heated rooms and plunge pools. The development of suites of heated rooms at both the western and eastern ends of the site may have allowed simultaneous use of the site by both men and women, but maintained a seemly separation of facilities for them.
The West Baths contains an exceptionally well preserved set of pilae which were piles of tiles through which hot air circulated to heat the floor and walls of the room above.



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The east baths
The eastern range of the bath house contained a large tepid bath fed by water that flowed through a pipe from the Great Bath. A series of heated rooms were developed here which became progressively larger until the site reached it maximum extent in the fourth century AD.

As part of the presentation of the site today, decorated walls have been suspended over the line of surviving wall foundations from the fourth century AD. This gives visitors an impression of the enormous size of some of the rooms in this bath house


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