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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. UNSPECIFIED. Oxford Archaeological Unit Ltd.

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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: Monograph (UNSPECIFIED)
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Bath and North East Somerset
Period > UK Periods > Roman 43 - 410 AD
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
Depositing User: Users 4 not found.
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2010 17:17
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2023 09:29
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/373

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