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, 29 February 2012

Investigating Science and Engineering at the Roman Baths

The 9th-18th March 2012, is National Science and Engineering Week! Come to the Roman Baths and get involved.

There will be hands-on archaeological science, lots of information, displays, enjoyable experiments and a special science trail. Come and see themed handling tables on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th between 2-4pm, by the Great Bath. These will cover various science and engineering topics, from metals and their uses, through to the wonders of the water cycle.

On Wednesday 14th March, the Baths will be open late for a very special science and engineering extravaganza. As well as the children’s trail, a variety of activities and experiments will be taking place throughout the site, hosted by our science ‘buskers’- all experts in their chosen fields.

Come and take part in the various experiments – test the temperature and pH of the water, build a voussoir arch and see a fully functioning replica Roman aqueduct in action! The ‘buskers’ will also be providing demonstrations and information about the snails in the Great Bath, conservation and Roman building with lime mortar, painting walls with pigments and binders, and even some hands-on mathematics with tiles and animal footprints.
Professor Romeo needs your help!
Our very own collections creation, Professor Romeo, will guide younger visitors through a science and engineering trail, available from the front desk every day of the week. The Professor is struggling to engineer an arch, and his trail will follow the usual route through the baths to find solutions to solve his dilemma.

The Roman Baths has always been a site of scientific enquiry, and the Romans were some of science’s greatest pioneers. The collections office would not be the same without a well-thumbed copy of Vitruvius’ Architecture, providing advice on everything from ‘the stringing and tuning of catapults’ to ‘the choice of healthy sites for cities’!

Stick around for regular science table blogs appearing here over the coming months!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Focus on Freshford

St Peter's Church - Freshford
As part of our travels around the county, the collections team has recently been to Freshford to work with the local school children, to inspire the imagination. We will be returning to Freshford Memorial Hall on Saturday 3rd March 2012, for a finds liaison day with Kurt Adams, our county FLO (Finds Liaison Officer), where we hope the school children will have created their own display. If you fancy coming along to learn a little more about Freshford, or you have an object that needs to be identified, do come along and join us!

So, a little more about Freshford …. Freshford comes from the origins of Fersc, the Anglo Saxon word meaning fresh, pure and sweet, while Ford means river crossing. Sooooo this means Fersc + Ford eventually turned into Freshford. Oh yes, there is more…

Freshford is close to Hayes Woods, which is rich in archaeology. Excavations in 1935 found an enclosed Iron Age settlement known as a hillfort. Here, the remains of animals such as sheep, pig, oxen and dog were found, giving us an indication of Iron Age farming practices.

Not too far away from the Iron Age site are the remains of a Roman settlement, discovered in 1920. A cobbled surface and over 4,000 fragments of Roman pottery were found, but the most interesting find must be the stone coffin that contained the skeleton of a young girl.

Did you know?
From skeletal remains we can learn a lot, for example, the life expectancy for a Roman man was 42 and for a Roman woman it was 31.

And the history continues …

In 577 AD, ‘The Battle of Dyrham’, a huge battle between the native Britons and the Saxons took place. Three native kings from Bath, Gloucester and Cirencester were killed; this marked the beginning of Saxon rule from the Severn to Kent and 200 years of peace and stability within Britain. Peace lasted until the 8th Century when the Vikings began a series of raids in an attempt to conquer Southwest England. Unrest continued until the Battle of Stanford Bridge in 1066, where King Harold II defeated the Norwegian King Harald III. Unfortunately for Harold II, not long after this win, the Normans were on their way to invade and invade they did….

After the Norman Conquest of 1066, William I realized he needed to survey the kingdom to be able to impose taxes. So in 1086, a record was made of land ownership, ternary, valuation of agricultural land and status of the workers. This record was put together in the form of the ‘Domesday Book’, in which Freshford is included, and thus starts the historic record for the village we see today….

For more information on this or any other of events please see the links below:




Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Connecting Collections - Magic Lantern Slides Part II

Old photographs can often be dated by advertising or incidental details, a good example of this being the photograph of A.Goodman’s Confectioners shop. This shows a large advertisement for Fry’s Chocolate. (Frys Chocolate Cream bars being first sold around 1866). Several were taken in Cornwall, two showing groups of people who were presumably also on holiday. In one example, they are shown enjoying a picnic luncheon, complete with large straw picnic hampers, in true Victorian style, complete (including / along with?) with flagon.

A. Goodman's Shop
Photographs taken often also document a changing world, and this is illustrated by two slides in particular. One is that of boys listening to a phonograph, invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. This was the first device to reproduce recorded sound, clearly quite a technical innovation. The boys gathered round are listening to the phonograph playing waxed cylinders. The cylinders had grooves etched into them, into which a metal stylus fitted, as with a record player. That the world is about to change is particularly well illustrated in another slide entitled, “War of Nations” Recruits Trench Digging.” This, together with the Castle Combe photograph, are particularly relevant at present, with the release of the Steven Spielberg film, “War Horse”, as scenes for the film were filmed there.

Boys Listening to Phonograph

Recruits Trench Digging WWI
Another example of a changing world, is the slide of the post boy who may well be delivering telegrams as well as post. We live in an age of rapid communication and tend to think of this as a modern innovation our Victorian ancestors would have been amazed by. For them, however, the development of the telephone and the telegraph system must have been just as interesting. Our ancestors were just as keen on developing technology as we are today. Indeed, the slides themselves are indicative of a changing world, if we remember by the 1880’s, cameras were becoming more widely available and more portable. Being easier to carry meant it was easier to take them to other parts of the world, as illustrated in these slides.

Post Boy

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Theme of Love

Mosaic depicting Cupid astride a Dolphin - Fishbourne
Just now, I was preparing to start with heavy fighting
and violent war, with a measure to fit the matter.
Good enough for lesser verse – laughed Cupid
so they say, and stole a foot away.
‘Cruel boy, who gave you power over this song?
Poets are the Muses’, we’re not in your crowd.

What if Venus snatched golden Minerva’s weapons,
while golden Minerva fanned the flaming fires?
Who’d approve of Ceres ruling the wooded hills,
with the Virgin’s quiver to cultivate the fields?
Who’d grant long-haired Phoebus a sharp spear,
while Mars played the Aonian lyre?

You’ve a mighty kingdom, boy, and too much power,
ambitious one, why aspire to fresh works?
Or is everything yours? Are Helicon’s metres yours?
Is even Phoebus’s lyre now barely his at all?
I’ve risen to it well, in the first line, on a clean page,
the next one’s weakened my strength:
and I’ve no theme fitting for lighter verses,
no boy or elegant long-haired girl.’

I was singing, while he quickly selected an arrow
from his open quiver, to engineer my ruin,
and vigorously bent the sinuous bow against his knee.
and said, ‘Poet take this effort for your song!’
Woe is me! That boy has true shafts.
I burn, and Love rules my vacant heart.
My work rises in six beats, sinks in five:
farewell hard fighting with your measure!
Muse, garland your golden brow with Venus’s myrtle
culled from the shore, and sing on with eleven feet!

Translated from Ovid - Amores, Book I, Elegy I.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Connecting Collections - Magic Lantern Slides Part I

Magic lanterns were an early form of slide projector, used in conjunction with glass slides to project an image. The glass slides were made by putting a light-sensitive solution onto glass plates, taking a picture and creating a negative which was then printed onto another glass plate.

The pictures here are from a collection of magic lantern slides, donated to the Roman Baths Museum in 1984, by a Miss Garroway. They belonged to her father, the Rev.George Garroway, and range in date from around 1880 to at least the beginning of the First World War in 1914, and may well have been taken by different photographers. Some of the photographers must have travelled widely, as the places photographed range widely. Some were taken in the West Indies and the Caribbean, others in Schull, County Cork, Ireland, Cornwall, Jersey, North America and Versailles, France.

The slides taken locally, include what may be a family group portrait taken in Warleigh, views of Castle Combe and Great Wishford, in Wiltshire. One particularly interesting slide is that of a Roman Mosaic found near Box, Wiltshire, in 1898. It has since been reburied to help preserve it. Another, also taken in Box, shows the Market Place with, of course, a group of children as often seen in Victorian and Edwardian photographs.

Roman Mosaic at Box
Others are of Bristol, one in particular showing a horse drawn open carriage being driven on the Suspension Bridge - not a sight to be seen very often now! Another sight long gone, is the Bristol High Cross. The one photographed is a replica which stood near College Green. The original, which stood at the junction of four roads, was moved to Stourhead, Wiltshire, in the 1770’s. The replica itself has been dismantled, but a remnant can be found in Berkeley Square Gardens, Bristol.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Bristol High Cross