Welcome to the Roman Baths Blog!

This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

It’s All in the Mix

One of the best things about my role is that it is diverse and varied. I often come up against challenges and boy have I just met the newest!

One of the Roman Baths’ unique selling points is that the visitor has the ability to actually walk around and over the original Roman remains. Many people have commented on how this gives them a very personal interaction with the site and the people who used the baths many years ago. But it poses a very big question for the professional: how do we ensure public access is not detrimental to the remains of the Roman structure?

Recently reset piece of paving south east side of the Great Bath
We have a large amount of Roman secondary paving on site and, with general wear and tear, it is inevitable that pieces will become loose. When this happens, the pieces need to be reset – as quickly as possible - to ensure that the original position is not lost. This is not as simple as it seems - the technique of re-fixing the stones is an art.

Tools of the trade - pointing mix
The stones are fixed using a lime-based mortar mix, closely matched to the original Roman recipe in use on the site nearly 2,000 years ago. I have recently taken on the challenge of re-fixing the pieces (under expert supervision of course!). The mortar mix needs air to harden but also a damp environment to make sure this process doesn’t happen too quickly – a fine balancing act. It also needs to be protected for 2-3 weeks to ensure it has hardened both inside and out.

Colour matching the pointing to blend in with the surrounding stones
So if you see a piece of damp sack cloth covering any stone around the Roman Baths and a barrier protecting it, it will be because conservation is taking place- please be patient, we need to do it to ensure that you, the visitor, has the best experience.

If you would like to learn more about lime-based materials http://www.buildingconservation.com/  is a good place to start……

Helen Harman – Collections Assistant

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