Slides of this excavation, taken by the late David Dean, have now been converted into digital images which can be put on our website. One of them was reproduced as a puzzle in the last newsletter. We are most grateful to Ann Dean for making this possible and to Chris Saunders, who actually took part in the 1974 dig, for taking the time to label the images and write the following linked article.
In 1951 the construction of a storm water drain through the field on the western side of Branch Road and down to the River Ver, revealed the presence of a Roman building. When the area was due to be developed for housing, arrangements were made to explore this building of which little was known except its presence. Excavations by the Verulamium Museum in 1974 revealed to our surprise that the structure was a large Roman Bath House. Excavation was not total but extensive enough to uncover much of the building.
Constructed around A.D. 140 the baths had had gone out of use by the early third century. They then seem to have been deliberately dismantled or demolished and useful building material removed. Further “robbing” of the remains took place in more recent times and nothing survived above the floor level of the original building.
The main rooms were set out in the common linear fashion so that bathers progressed from cold room (frigidarium), warm room (tepidarium) and hot room (caldarium) and then returned. Both the tepidarium and caldarium were provided with “plunge baths” in which the bather could immerse themselves. One other room not always found, was the laconicum. a super heated room. The function of the heated rooms to the north is uncertain. All these rooms were accessed by a wide corridor which led from a courtyard now buried beneath Redbourn Road.
Simple plan of Bath House
1. Part of the Hypocaust in the Caldarium. The brick pillars (pilae) protrude from a thick layer of alluvium which covers the sub floor. At some time all the hypocaust basements and the two frigidarium plunge baths were flooded resulting in this deposit. Whether this was the cause of the baths going out of use, or if this occurred later, is uncertain. Subsequently the floor suspended on the pilae was removed and the large tiles which bridged the pilae removed from the site. One broken example is shown here - a very rare survivor. After this the roof collapsed or was demolished. A fragment of the vaulted ceiling can be seen in the foreground
2. Part of the corridor and the two heated rooms of uncertain function. The diagonal stripon which the wheelbarrow sits covers the 1951 storm drain. The flint rubble is make-up for the corridor floor and on the right the remains of a hypocaust with practically all of the pilae removed.
3. Drains and the western frigidarium plunge bath.In the foreground the white tessellated floor of the bath with two tiles at the mouth of the drain which ran into the main drain which here has one of its side walls well preserved.