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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, 10 October 2012

Hat and Feather Excavations

Hat and Feather excavation photo
The excavations at the Hat and Feather Yard formed part of a series of excavations that spanned the late 1980s and the early 1990s centred on an area of Bath called Walcot, which lies less than a mile to the north east of the centre of Bath along one of the main access roads.

Plan of excavations
The evidence from these excavations showed that people settled in Walcot shortly after the invasion in 43AD but before the Baths and Temple were built by the springs. They founded a settlement that grew rapidly in the first two centuries into a bustling small town, capitalising on the tourist trade provided by the Temple and Baths. The influx of people from the Roman Empire included highly skilled stone masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, potters, and glass makers. They brought with them new skills in stone carving, metal working and glass blowing. Trade and industry flourished and the area around the Hat and Feather yard grew to become a mix of workshops and domestic dwellings that remained in use until the fourth century AD.

Reconstruction drawing of the Walcot area during the Roman period
What the archaeologists had uncovered was a site of great importance, showing the development and growth beyond the city walls during the Roman occupation, and later shrinkage. All the archaeological evidence indicates that after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the once bustling suburbs of Bath had all but disappeared. By the time the Saxons conquered Bath in 577 AD, the town had shrunk back to within the city walls. Extension of the city settlement during the early medieval period was limited to the very south of Walcot Street. The city began to spread again in the 13th century, but it was not until the 19th century that Walcot became a major suburb of Bath once again. At that time the site contained cottages and outbuildings of the Hat and Feather Pub which still stands next to the most recent occupant of the site, a furniture store (T R Hayes).

In next week’s blog Will tells us a little bit more about some of the worked bone from the site.

Did you know?
The name “Walcot” is thought to mean either “place of strangers” or “cottages of the Britons.”

Helen Harman – Collections Assistant


  1. That's really interesting, Helen, as most of my leisure time is - and was - spent in Walcot, my workshop was - for many years - in Walcot Yard (I am a stone-carver) and far too much time was spent in the Hat and Feather, beginning in the early 1970s.

    A friend of mine owned a house very close to the Hat (at the top of London Street) and when developing his garden, he came upon the foundation outlines of the warren of 19th century (and earlier) buildings which covered it. They are still exposed today, and the sandstone door-steps can still be seen either side of what must have been very narrow alleys indeed.

    I understand that this area was well-know as the lower end of the 'red-light' district of Bath, and the hovels were demolished by the Victorians to clean the place up - both literally and morally.

  2. Hi Tom,
    I am glad you enjoyed the read; do pop in to T R Hayes if you're ever free as there is a little display of the archaeology in the extension to the back of the premises that now covers the site of excavation.
    Kind regards,

  3. I live in one of the flats behind T R Hayes, apparently where plague victims were buried, overlooking the river.

  4. In tracing my family tree, I understand that the 1851 Census shows George Cottle as living in 6 Hat and Feather Street. Can anyone elaborate ? Many thanks in advance.

    1. Hi there,
      How exciting - our colleagues at the Record Office may be able to help. Their contact details and opening times are available via the website: www.batharchives.co.uk
      Kind regards,