Roman bath house, 100m south-west of St Mary’s Church.
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.
Despite some disturbance in the past, the Roman bath house 100m south-west of St Mary’s Church survives well. The walls and floors of the bath house are particularly well preserved and the building provides valuable evidence for the nature of urban settlement in the Roman town of Portus Dubris. The site will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the construction, use and history of the bath house.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 3 September 2014. The 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.
The monument includes a Roman bath house surviving as buried remains. It is situated on low-lying ground to the east of York Street, north-east of Durham Hill in Dover.
The bath house is approximately 20m long and 8m wide and includes a series of six heated rooms. The walls survive to an average of 2m high but rise to 4m high at one corner. It has opus signinum floors and a channelled hypocaust with the furnace at the western end. The bath house was constructed in three periods between the second and fourth centuries AD.
The site was discovered during building work in 1881 and was partially excavated in 1973. A female statue has been found nearby, beneath the site of the church of St Martin's le Grand, and is likely to be associated with the bath house. Following partial excavation the site was back-filled and is now a public open space.