Jewry Wall: remains of a Roman bath house, palaestra and Anglo-Saxon church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Jewry Wall: remains of a Roman bath house, palaestra and Anglo-Saxon church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Leicester (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 58203 04483

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.

The remains of the Roman bath house and palaestra at Jewry Wall include the only standing fragments of the Roman town of Leicester, Ratae Coritanorum. The Jewry Wall itself, representing the west wall of the palaestra, is also rare in being one of the largest standing pieces of a Roman civilian building in the country and has contributed significantly to our knowledge of this type of architecture. The remains of the bath house were excavated in the 1930s and are thus quite well understood, revealing several unparalleled details on an unusual plan. The excavations also demonstrated the survival of pre-Roman deposits at a lower level, which remain intact. As a result of their presentation for public display, the bath house remains also serve as an important educational and recreational resource. The area of the palaestra and overlying Anglo-Saxon church is largely unexcavated and will thus preserve architectural, artefactual and ecofactual remains of a period of over a thousand years. The superimposition of the Anglo-Saxon church on the Roman building will provide a valuable insight into the manner in which civil authority was transfered to the church between the late Roman period and the Anglo-Saxon era.


The monument includes the above-ground and buried remains of a Roman bath house and palaestra (exercise hall) constructed in the 2nd century AD in the northern half of Insula XXI of the Roman town, Ratae Coritanorum. The visible remains of the bath house are represented by a mixture of consolidated surviving masonary, reconstruction (the hypocaust bases, for example, are all modern replicas) and the delineation of robber wrenches by modern kerbs. In the post-Roman period the buildings were partially demolished and an Anglo- Saxon church was built on the site of the palaestra. In the 18th and 19th centuries the only standing piece of Roman masonry surviving above ground was a fragment of the west wall of the palaestra, against which a succession of domestic and industrial buildings were erected. In 1920 this fragment, known as the Jewry Wall, was taken into state care and in 1936 the site of the bath house was cleared of modern buildings. Archaeological excavations carried out between 1936 and 1939 uncovered the remains of the bath house, and the surviving parts are now exposed for public display. The site of the palaestra and Anglo-Saxon church is now largely occupied by the present church of St Nicholas and surrounding graveyard. The Church of St Nicholas is a Grade B Listed Building and is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath it is included. The churchyard, which is no longer used for burial, and the Jewry Wall, which is Listed Grade I, are included in the scheduling.

The excavated remains of the bath house lie on the east side of the Jewry Wall Museum and take the form of a series of stone foundations, partially restored and consolidated for public presentation. They include, immediately adjacent to the museum building, the remains of three large rectangular halls representing caldaria (hot baths); on each of the north and south sides is a semicircular extension where a cold plunge bath was situated. Attached to the east are the remains of three smaller rectangular rooms representing tepidaria (warm baths) and including the remains of a hypocaust. The bath house is joined to the palaestra on the east by two blocks of rooms which were built, with the palaestra, at a slightly earlier date; that on the north contains the remains of a latrine which is connected to a series of stone-lined drains running on the north, east and south sides of the bath house. Between the two blocks is an open rectangular area, believed to have been the frigidarium where cold water basins were located. On the north side of the bath house are the foundations of stone walls believed to represent the remains of a portico which ran along the edge of the insula, and in which road side shops may have stood. Fragments of pre-Roman pottery of the early first century AD were discovered during excavation, indicating that the site of the bath house was occupied immediately before the Roman Conquest.

On the eastern side of the area of exposed foundations are the standing remains of the west wall of the palaestra, known as the Jewry Wall. The wall is constructed of coursed stone and brick and survives to a height of over 9m. Near the centre of the wall are two doorways which led from the palaestra to the frigidarium of the bath house; on the eastern face is a series of blind arches and niches. The foundations of part of a colonnade running inside of, and parallel to, the west wall of the palaestra have been discovered beneath St Nicholas Walk. In its entirety the palaestra was a rectangular building over 50m x 25m with a colonnade on two sides, occupying the north eastern corner of the insula; the remains of the greater part of the building now lie buried beneath the present church and churchyard.

In the post-Roman period the Jewry Wall is believed to have served as the west wall of an Anglo-Saxon church pre-dating the surviving church of St Nicholas. Partial excavation in the area between the wall and the present church revealed two post-Roman walls connecting the two structures. The survival of late Saxon stonework in the fabric of the present building, and the alignment of the nave on one of the Roman doorways, further indicates the presence of an earlier church on the site. The remains of the earlier church are largely overlain by the present one.

The northern wing of Vaughan College, all modern walls, steps, signposts, road and carpark surfaces, lamp-posts, floodlights and iron railings are excluded from the scheduling, as are the gravestones and Roman masonry fragments on the surface of St Nicholas's churchyard; the ground beneath these features is, however, included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Jewry Wall, (1968)
Liddle, P, A Guide to 20 Archaeological Sites in Leicestershire, (1983), 28-29
Wacher, J, The Towns of Roman Britain, (1975), 342-355
Kenyon, K M, 'Society of Antiquaries Research Report' in Excavations At The Jewry Wall Site, Leicester, , Vol. 15, (1948)
letters to Dr. Kenyon, Clarke, D. T-D, (1959)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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