Bath and the Rediscovery of the Roman Baths
14 June 2020
Bath, with its fantastically preserved Roman Baths, is naturally a bit of a hotspot for anyone who enjoys delving into history. Certainly anyone who comes to Bath would be missing out if they didn’t explore the Roman Baths. With this in mind, we thought that it might be of interest to our guests and future guests if we did a blog about how the Roman Baths were rediscovered.
Although (according to the legend of King Bladdud) there has been a settlement on the land on which Bath sits since 860 B.C., for many years there were no official baths. It was only around 60 A.D. when the Romans established a temple complex dedicated to the goddess Minerva that Bath got its baths. However, the majority of the Roman complex was built over by later generations and lost to time, and it was many years before the Roman Baths that we can see today were rediscovered.
The big rediscovery began in the Victorian era. Excavations were begun in 1878 and continued into the 1990s. They were triggered when Major Charles Davis, the city’s surveyor and architect, discovered a leak in the King’s Bath and decided to explore the area around it. He found Roman tiles, pottery, and lead. Over the next few years the buildings which sat above the area over the Great Bath were bought from their owners by the city authorities and demolished to reveal the Baths beneath.
By 1883 the Great Bath was uncovered and ready for visitors, and during the first year of it being open it attracted over 10,000 visitors.
Another notable milestone moment in the excavation history of the Baths came in 1885 when the Queen’s Bath – so called because Queen Anne of Denmark visited it in 1613 and 1615 – was demolished. Beneath the Queen’s Bath was found the Roman Circular Bath.
Just a few years later, in 1890 the Spa the was used by as any as 100,000 people. who came to bathe in the hot waters, sweat in the steam baths, and a range of other ever-changing treatments.
Although the spa was closed in 1976 and visitors can no longer take a dip in the Bath, the Roman Baths attract over a million visitors a year. As well as a wealth of artefacts such as old Roman coins, statues, and sections of the original temple stonework, visitors can also leave offerings in the Circular Bath (just like the Romans did in the Sacred Spring), taste the mineral-rich waters, and attend a wide range of special events.
If you’ll be coming to Bath in the future, and we hope you will, then a visit to the Roman Baths is a must.