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Archaeology in Bath: Excavations at the New Royal Baths (the Spa), and Bellot's Hospital 1998-1999

Davenport, Peter and Poole, Cynthia and Jordan, David (2007) Archaeology in Bath: Excavations at the New Royal Baths (the Spa), and Bellot's Hospital 1998-1999. Oxford Archaeological Unit Ltd. ISBN 978-0-904220-45-2

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Abstract

Excavations took place in the south-west quadrant of the Roman and medieval town of Bath in advance of the redevelopment on the site of the former Beau Street Baths and Nos.7–7a Bath Street. The deep and extensive foundations of the new Royal Spa building required total excavation in advance of the destruction. Associated hydrological investigations also provided the opportunity to study artefacts derived from the Hot Bath spring. Possible early Mesolithic ritual activity was associated with the Hot Spring, whilst exploitation of the river gravels for flint occurred in the late Mesolithic. Evidence for activity after the late Mesolithic period was absent until the Iron Age. An Iron Age coin had been deposited in the Hot Bath Spring, and represents the first evidence of a pattern of votive offering otherwise confined to the Roman period. In addition a few sherds of Iron Age pottery occurred residually in the Roman contexts, the first such find in central Bath. During the 1st and early 2nd centuries AD the area of the site appears to have been derelict and overgrown waste ground, cut through by a drainage ditch. In the Antonine period, a substantial and architecturally impressive building, which must have stood somewhere close by, was demolished to make way for a major redevelopment of the area. Materials from the building were incorporated in the new construction, which seems to have been a large public building with at least two wings arranged around a central courtyard. It was bounded by roads to the south and west and may have been associated with a baths complex known to the south. The development may have been built to create a major religious-leisure complex centred on the Hot Bath spring. Evidence for votive offerings at the Hot Spring was recovered in the form of numbers of Roman coins, which ranged in date from the 1st to 4th centuries. Nineteenth century truncation had destroyed the upper levels of the large building, together with much of the stratigraphy of later periods, resulting in an absence of evidence for buildings until the Georgian period. There is evidence for robbing of the Roman building in the late or sub-Roman periods, followed by its decay and the accumulation of a thick dark earth, possibly indicative of cultivation. Renewed occupation occurred in the 11th century with evidence for the digging of pits, an activity which gradually decreasing in successive centuries. Little trace of earlier post-medieval activity survived, the deposits having been almost entirely destroyed by the late Georgian spa facilities built in 1829–30, which were subjected to various alterations and rebuilds during the 20th century. At Bellott’s Hospital, observation of engineers’ test pits had shown that well-preserved stratified deposits of Roman date and a probable post-Roman dark earth were present over the entire site. In 1998 all post-Roman deposits, including the dark earth, were removed by machine with only minimal recording possible. The new construction level largely coincided with the top of the Roman structural layers, in which were also visible the remains of medieval pits following the lines of earlier walls and interpreted as robbing pits. The upper surface of the Roman deposits was planned and limited investigations were undertaken. Nearly a metre of Roman structural deposits representing three phases of Roman masonry buildings fronting a street were revealed together with the underlying buried soil. Hints of timber buildings preceding the masonry phase were also recorded. The latest building contained extremely well-preserved evidence of a Romano-British blacksmith’s workshop, with slag deposits and an anvil base.

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Geographical Areas > English Counties > Bath and North East Somerset
Period > UK Periods > Roman 43 - 410 AD
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
ID Code:373
Deposited By: Joseph Reeves
Deposited On:29 Nov 2010 17:17
Last Modified:22 Dec 2011 14:35

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