Billingsgate Roman bath complex and associated dwelling, 53m south-west of All Hallows House.
Reasons for Designation
Billingsgate Roman bath complex and associated dwelling, 53m south-west of All Hallows House, was a balnea, a small privately-owned bath suite attached to a Roman town house or commercial property such as an inn (mansio).
The practice of bathing was an integral part of Roman urban life, and the bath house served an important function as a place for relaxation and social congregation as well as exercise and hygiene. The bath house was one of the principal public buildings of a Roman town. Private bath complexes or suites were also attached to Roman villas and, although rare, sometimes Roman town houses and commercial properties. Bath houses or complexes 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). They could also include changing rooms, latrines, sauna and massage rooms, and a palaestra or exercise area. The bath complex 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 frequently an aqueduct.
Despite disturbance by building work and development, Billingsgate Roman bath complex and associated dwelling survive well. It is one of the most significant preserved Roman sites within the City of London. The monument is a rare example of surviving in-situ remains of a property with attached private baths within the Roman settlement of Londinium. It retains information on the construction and function of the baths. The design of the bath suite and relationship to the associated building is unusual and adds further interest to the site. The site will contain further archaeological and environmental information relating to its history and use in the Roman period.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 30 July 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 complex and associated building, surviving as upstanding and archaeological remains. It is situated in the basement area of 100 Lower Thames Street nearby to the north shore of the River Thames and within London Wall, the Roman boundary of the city.
The associated Roman building is thought to be a private town house or a mansio (inn). It is thought to have been constructed in about the late 2nd century AD, with the bath complex added within the yard area in the 3rd century AD. The walls of the bath complex survive up to about 1.5m high. It is orientated broadly north-south and includes a short corridor or vestibule either side of two small apsidal heated rooms, about 3m wide by 4m long. These have been identified as the tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room). A brick seat or recess is set into the central wall of the tepidarium. The corridor between the two rooms leads to a rectangular unheated room with a tessellated floor, 6m by 7m, which was part of an earlier building but later used as the frigidarium (cold room). In both apsidal rooms are the pilae of the hypocaust with some spanning floor tiles, which remain in situ in the west apsed room. The pilae are up to about 0.5m high and arranged in rows about 0.4m apart. On the south side of the east apsed room is a furnace pit with flue tiles. The design of the bath suite is unusual in that the arrangement required the bather to enter the complex through the heated rooms in order to reach the changing area in the frigidarium and then retrace their steps to use first the tepidarium and then the caldarium. It may have been due to an attempt to reuse part of an existing structure or to fit the bath into the internal area of the property.
To the north and east of the bath house are the wings of the associated building or dwelling. The walls are built of ragstone and are between 0.75m and 1m thick and up to 1m high. The remains of the north wing include the south wall, probable buttresses and remains of timber piles. The east wing includes a wall base for a colonnade, a tessellated floor that ran along the west side, remains of the west wall and a series of wall bases to the rooms behind. Partial excavation indicates that the bath complex and associated building continued in use until the early 5th century AD after which it was subject to gradual decay and eventual demolition.
Roman remains were first discovered at the site in 1848, during the construction of the Coal Exchange building and the bath complex was partially excavated and preserved within the basement. Further parts of the bath and associated building were partially excavated in 1859. In about 1968, the Coal Exchange was demolished and replaced, and Lower Thames Street widened. Further excavation was carried out between 1968 and 1975. Between 1987 and 1990, conservation to the Roman remains included some archaeological recording and limited excavation. The finds from the site have included a group of 241 bronze coins in a stone-lined pit, the latest of which was minted after AD 395, and 18 coins on the floor of the frigidarium, apparently lost after AD 388. Roman pottery and environmental remains, a sherd of Saxon pottery and a saucer brooch were also found. A medieval well and medieval walling overlaid the Roman remains.
A possible temple, terrace walls and a Roman road have been identified to the east of the site beyond the constraint area. To the west, at Pudding Lane, a Roman bath suite of similar size has also been recorded.