Conservation work on a Roman Bath House and a section of Hadrian’s wall at Segedunum Roman Fort in North Tyneside now completed and the area is open for visitors.
The Roman bath house was buried under a pub and until 2013, drinkers in The Ship in Wallsend (known locally as the Ship in the Hole) had no idea they were inadvertently toasting the ghosts of hundreds of Roman soldiers who had enjoyed a hot bath – and maybe a drink too – just a few metres directly below them thousands of years earlier!
Although it was known there were Roman Baths near to Segedunum, no one knew for certain exactly where they were until The Ship was demolished in 2013, and volunteers discovered the exciting Bath House remains the following year.
Up until now only replica baths were available to see at Segedunum, but now thanks to Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and expert renovation work by Team Force Restoration, visitors can see the remains of the real baths.
Experts in the conservation of historic buildings across the UK, Blyth-based Team Force Restoration, have been resident at Segedunum for three months since April 2016.
Managing Director Brendan Teasdale and the skilled craftsmen at Team Force Restoration have been painstakingly preparing the authentic Roman remains for the public to see, making the ancient Roman walls safe and conserving this fantastic, historic discovery for generations to come.
Brendan Teasdale says: “This is a highly significant archaeological discovery and Team Force Restoration was delighted to be the conservation firm chosen to carry out this very important work.
“Our restoration work has firstly involved the consolidation of this rediscovered area of Hadrian’s Wall, particularly the wall face and the wall top, using special clay based mortars which were developed by Team Force Restoration for Hadrian’s Wall. These specially formulated clay based mortars have a weak crushing strength and are totally reversible which is ideal where ground conditions are wet and difficult. Drainage systems were also installed.
“At the Roman Bath House, the stone was quite fragile, so we used lime mortars here. Using lime mortar for conservation to historic structures ensures that the ancient stone work can breathe and helps to ensure its long term survival.
“Most of the original footings and low level walls are now restored and intact, you can also see original stone bedded in place with original Roman lime mortar. We also installed gabions, footpaths, a new barrier fence and arranged landscaping.”
This first phase of new developments at Segedunum Roman Fort which includes this preservation and interpretation of the rediscovered Roman bath house foundations, and the conservation and display of a further 50m of Hadrian’s Wall, is now open to visitors.
Other improvements include direct access to the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail from the museum, a viewing platform for the bath house foundations (which are several feet deep), a picnic area and landscaping to the site.
The work has been funded by a £500,000 grant from government as part of a ‘six point long term economic plan’ for the North East, part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative.
Bathing was one of the key features of Roman civilization and every fort on Hadrian’s Wall had its baths, usually situated outside the fort walls as this one is.
The baths were heated by hot gases circulating from a furnace under the raised floors of the heated rooms and drawn up flues in the walls. The floors of the heated rooms were raised on stone pillars or stacks of bricks. A boiler, supplied by an aqueduct, stood over the main furnace and heated the water for the main hot bath.
The baths were places where people could exercise and socialise as well as bathing. The baths were used by the civilians, women and children as well as by the soldiers themselves.
The exact site of the Roman baths was discovered and the excavation of the baths and Hadrian’s Wall was carried out by local community archaeology project, WallQuest, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and others and managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.
For more information on Team Force Restoration please go to www.team-force.co.uk
For more information about Segedunum Roman Fort please go to www.segedunumromanfort.org.uk