Part of the Roman bath house, the Deanery Garden, Exeter.
Reasons for Designation
The bath house was one of the principal public buildings of a Roman town. The practice of communal bathing was an integral part of Roman urban life, and the public bath house served an important function as a place for relaxation and social congregation as well as exercise and hygiene. Public bath houses were used by most inhabitants of Roman towns, including slaves, to the extent that private bathing facilities in town houses were rare; men and women bathed at separate times of day, or in separate suites. Bath houses therefore varied in both size and plan, according to the local population and bathing arrangements, but all consisted of a series of rooms of graded temperature containing a variety of plunge-baths. The frigidarium (cold room) led, progressively, to one or more tepidaria (warm rooms) and caldaria (hot rooms). Bath houses could also include changing rooms, latrines, sauna and massage rooms, and were often linked to a palaestra or exercise area, which originated as an open courtyard but in Britain was later adapted to a covered hall. The bath house was heated by hypocausts connected to nearby furnaces; it was also linked to, and depended upon, an engineered water supply which involved the construction of drains, sewers and an aqueduct. As a necessity of Roman town life, the public bath house was one of the first buildings to be constructed after the establishment of a town. Most bath houses, therefore, originated in the first or second century AD and continued in use, with alterations, to the fifth century. They are distributed throughout the towns of Roman Britain, which were principally situated in what is now eastern, central and southern England and south Wales. In view of their importance for an understanding of Romano-British urban development and social practice, all surviving examples are considered to be worthy of protection. Since the excavation carried out at the Roman bath house in the Deanery Garden was only partial, and this was one of the major public buildings of the town much there is a great deal of potential for further buried structures, layers and deposits in this area and these will contain important information relating to the construction, use, layout, development and social significance of the bath house within the town.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 5 November 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument includes part of the Roman bath house at Exeter situated within the Deanery Garden to the south west of Exeter Cathedral. All the surviving remains of Roman structures associated with this part of the bath house are preserved as buried features. Partial excavations in 1934 revealed the cold plunge bath or frigidarium which was a rectangular stone built tank measuring 15.8m long by approximately 8m wide and 1.2m deep surrounded by a pavement of sandstone blocks which had supported a colonnade. The bath house had been situated beside one of the principal axes of the Roman fortress.