Romano-British bath house and medieval remains at 11-15 Borough High Street

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1422618
Date first listed:
31-Mar-2015
Location Description:
The site is located at 11-15 Borough High Street, London SE1 as it is a building site it is not included on the royal mail postcode finder.
Statutory Address:
11-15, Borough High Street, Southwark, London

Map

Ordnance survey map of Romano-British bath house and medieval remains at 11-15 Borough High Street
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Location

Statutory Address:
11-15, Borough High Street, Southwark, London

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
The site is located at 11-15 Borough High Street, London SE1 as it is a building site it is not included on the royal mail postcode finder.
County:
Greater London Authority
District:
Southwark (London Borough)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ3273580239

Summary

The monument includes part of a Romano-British bath house and a chalk construction and vaulted chalk piers dated to the C11 to C12.

Reasons for Designation

The Roman bath house and associated medieval remains of St Thomas' precinct at 11-15 Borough High Street, Southwark, London are scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Period: the bath house is characteristic of its period; * Documentation/finds: the site was excavated to professional modern standards and a full record of the stratigraphy and artifacts was made; * Survival/condition: the excavation ensured that archeological remains were left in situ and some parts of the site were deliberately left un-excavated; * Potential: the excavation ensured that archaeological potential remains in the site; * Fragility/vulnerability: the remains of the bath house are fragile and potentially vulnerable to damage;. * Group value: for its group value with other Roman finds from London in general and Southwark in particular.

History

The Roman bath house was one of the foremost buildings in a Roman town. The practise of communal bathing was an integral part of Roman urban life and provided relaxation, social congregation, exercise and hygiene. Private bath houses in towns were rare, and usually the preserve of the rich. The majority of the populace used public bath houses. These varied in size and plan according to local conditions and requirements, but would invariably consist of a series of rooms of graded temperatures with associated plunge baths. The normal arrangement was for rooms varying from cold through warm to hot together with ancillary rooms for changing, latrines, massage and possibly an exercise area. Heating was provided by hypocausts connected to associated furnaces. Bath houses were also linked to, and depended upon, an engineered water supply including drains and sewers. Owing to its importance in the life of a town, bath houses were often amongst the first buildings to be constructed after the establishment of a town and therefore most date to the C1 or C2 AD. 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.

The Southwark bath house was discovered on land at the very N end of the Borough of Southwark, just south of the River Thames where Borough High Street meets London Bridge Street.

Southwark has a long history:

PREHISTORIC PERIODS During the prehistoric periods the land, which is now north Southwark, was a series of sandy islands separated by channels. The islands were sequentially exposed and partially covered due to the tidal action of the River Thames. This created a marshland environment which would have been attractive to prehistoric communities due to the variety of resources available.

The area of land under consideration, which is now 11-15 Borough High Street, lay on high ground within the borders of the northern island, but excavation found relatively little evidence of a prehistoric presence here because the island foreshore would have been a more attractive option for exploitation.

ROMANO-BRITISH PERIOD The Roman bath house lies to the south of the Roman bridgehead across the Thames and just to the E of the Roman road (Road 1, see below) through the settlement of Roman Southwark. Finds of Romano-British coins suggest that London was founded about AD 50 on the N side of the river where the land was higher than the marshy S side. Although long thought to have been a suburb of Roman London, work done in the last 10 years has shown that north Southwark was part of the Roman settlement of London from the beginning. An early pottery group dated to AD 40-55 from Courage's Brewery site is evidence of the early origins of Southwark. The area which is now north Southwark appears to have been established as a settlement along a major Roman road (Road 1) from the S to the River Thames. This road was an extension of Watling Street, coming from Canterbury to the SE and Stane Street from Chichester to the S. These roads converged at about the site of St George the Martyr in Borough High Street, and approximately followed the line of the present Borough High Street. Additional evidence showing that Southwark was an early part of London comes from levels of burning attributed to the Boudican sacking of London in AD 61, which shows the extent of Southwark before this date. The burned buildings were concentrated along this major road which led to the bridgehead on the northern island. Southwark was rebuilt and became a thriving trade centre. The rebuilding included both timber-framed and masonry structures including a tower granary at Winchester Palace, to the west of the bridge head, and a stone-built market on the site of what is now London Bridge Station ticket hall.

The north Southwark part of Roman London expanded in the C2 and into the C3 and more masonry buildings were constructed and more land reclaimed. By the C3 Southwark had become an administrative centre with official residences. After the mid C4, however, Southwark had contracted to the area around the bridgehead and a cemetery had been established on much of the remaining area.

SAXON PERIOD There is little direct evidence of a late C9/early C10 Saxon presence in Southwark, but that which does occur lies generally in the area of the bridgehead. A couple of Romano- British buildings, at least, appear to have remained standing; these are the masonry building at Winchester Palace and buildings to the east of Road 1 around London Bridge Street and St Thomas Street. The identification of an Alfredian burgh at Southwark has not been conclusively proved, but there appears to have been an attack on London in AD 994 in which fortifications at Southwark may have been involved.

MEDIEVAL PERIOD The reference to Southwark in the Domesday Book indicated that it was an un-manorialised settlement without a direct lord. At that time it is described as comprising several dozen houses, a trading shore, a dock, a fishery and a Monesterium (thought to be the site of the Priory of St Mary Overy).

It is possible that the medieval boundaries of Southwark may be reflected in the street patterns with Winchester Palace (the residence of the Bishop of Westminster) immediately west of the boundary. Medieval London Bridge was constructed in the C12. Religious institutions played an important part in the development of Southwark. The major institutions were in the vicinity of the bridgehead and included the Priory of Mary Overy (Southwark Cathedral), St Olave’s Church and St Thomas’s Hospital (founded 1106). The medieval remains excavated on the site of the Roman bath house appear to correspond to the line of the precinct boundary of St Thomas's Hospital. It would appear that the medieval settlement of Southwark extended further south of the bridgehead on both sides of Borough High Street.

HISTORY OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION The area around north Southwark has been investigated at least since the late 1960s. In 2009 MOLA carried out a watching brief and test pits on the present site in advance of Network Rail’s redevelopment of Borough Viaduct for Thameslink. The present site was excavated by Oxford Archaeology and Pre-Construct Archaeology in 2011.

Details

Part of a Romano-British bath house complex dated to the early-C2 AD and a medieval chalk construction and a series of vaulted chalk piers of C11 to C12 date.

The site at the junction of Borough High Street, London Bridge Street and Railway Approach in Southwark includes a small part of Roman London S of the River Thames. Historically it lies towards the upper peak of the northernmost of the islands which existed in the River Thames at that time.

The excavation area, aligned NE-SW, was divided into three parts: area A1 at the NE end of the site was 5.35m by 10.8m, area A2, which adjoined A1, was 5.86m by 11.22m and area B, to the SW, was 11.15m by 6m. The combined sites were situated at the junction between Railway Approach/London Bridge Street and Borough High Street. For ease of description the site can be considered broadly as comprising a N part (A1 and A2) and a S part (B).

The excavation revealed a part of the buildings which lay close to the east side of the main Roman N-S street through the settlement (Road 1).

LATE C1 TO EARLY C2 The area of the monument appears to have undergone some ground consolidation in the early Roman period, evidenced by Mesolithic or Neolithic flints found in later deposits. Consolidation was followed by some industrial activity in the southern part of the excavated area which included the production of leaded copper alloy and iron working.

Towards the middle and S end of the site is the earliest evidence of building comprising brickearth partition walls of structures fronting onto the main Roman road (Road 1) through the town to the W and a subsidiary road leading off it. The building fronting the subsidiary road is associated with copper working and continued in use until the early C2. After this phase the ground level here was raised. The industrial activity continued in the northern and central parts of the site until towards the end of C1 it reduced and domestic occupation predominated. This is evidenced by opus signinum (consolidated crushed terra cotta tile mixed with lime or clay mortar) surfaces and refuse pits. The same pattern of reduced industrial activity also applies to the southern part of the site.

N PART OF THE SITE INCLUDING THE BATH HOUSE AND C2 OCCUPATION The construction of a high status masonry building dominated the northern area of the excavation. This building or complex of buildings is constructed of Bessalis brick walls on ragstone foundations and is thought to date to the early C2 although the full depth of the foundations was not able to be examined because of project depths. This building, identified as a bath house, includes two complete rooms and parts of two other rooms adjoining them to the NE, all of which appear contemporary. The remaining parts of the NE rooms lie outside the excavated area and the complete rooms lie to the SW of them.

The largest complete room lies on the SW side of the site; it is circular in form with a thick insulating outer wall (0.7m wide) overlain by a brick floor and an inner curvilinear wall (0.45m wide) constructed against the outer wall. Internally it is about 4.9m diameter and externally to the outer edges of the walls about 7m in diameter. Walls are about 0.3m-0.4m high. Limescale residues on the floor indicated damp conditions were present when the room was in use. The inner wall ‘lips’ over the floor surface and had been coated with opus signinum indicating a requirement for waterproofing. The appearance of the plan of the structure and the limescale residues indicate that it is a Laconicum, or sweating room. The inner curvilinear wall would have supported seating which has been removed by robbing or later intrusions. The second complete room, to the E of the Laconicum measures 4m by 2.4m. Dumped deposits dating to the late C2 to early C3 suggested that parts of the complex had fallen out of use by this time.

The two incomplete rooms at the far NE end of the site are part of this bath house complex, but their function is not identified with certainty. They measure 5.25m by 1.8m and 4.3m by 1.6m. They contained numerous copper objects (including a spatula) and pottery no later than AD 160. Both rooms were modified at least twice; in the mid/late C2 and again in the late C2. Modifications include the insertion of a drain into one of the rooms. Robbing and levelling the ground in both rooms occurred in the late C2 and there are indications that the original wall facings were removed and an opus signinum floor and flues added. The addition of the opus signinum floor over debris similar to that from the Laconicum indicate that by the C3 this part of the complex was no longer used as a bath house, but continued with an unknown alternative function.

The complete room, on the SE side of this N part of the excavation and which abuts the Laconicum on its E side, is less well preserved since much of the room is truncated by later intrusions. Scarring on the internal face of the N wall of this building shows that floor levels had existed. The truncation makes identification of features difficult, but the room contains partially identified pits and levelling deposits, which excavation shows contain C1 to mid C2 material, although these features may perhaps belong to an earlier phase pre-dating the complex. The function of this room is unknown.

S PART OF THE SITE IN C2 TO C4 At the SW end of the excavation elevation of levels comparable to those in the excavation further N and the construction of a masonry structure in the NW part of Area B indicates widespread development taking place in the early C2. Towards the mid/late C2 seven distinct areas or rooms were established in this S part of the excavated area. Because of the difference in construction techniques it is likely that the three western rooms with ragstone foundations belong to a different complex from the three rooms to the E. The final area, at the far SW end of the excavation may have been a room or more likely an open space since a multi-phase cess pit is present here.

In the W complex the rooms may have abutted each other. Opus signinum surfaces occur in each room. The levelling layers below this are dated to AD 160.

In the E complex the rooms are thought to define areas within a separate timber framed building partitioned by beamslots and several opus signinum surfaces. Slumping of levelling material and mortar suggests several phases of rebuilding in the C2 to early C3.

In the late C3 and C4 there appears to have been extensive robbing of the bath house and abandonment. However in the W complex of rooms at the S end of the site there is evidence of possible later phases of occupation within the footprint of the earlier structure.

MEDIEVAL C11 TO C12 The site underwent some development in this period; this comprised two areas of activity; a chalk construction in the N part of the site at the E limit of area A1, and a series of vaulted chalk piers in the S part of the site built across the S limits of area B. Both constructions utilised Roman tile and the former, which is directly over the Roman foundations, is of two phases of construction within a short period of time of each other. It is not clear if the chalk piers of the two areas relate to each other, but the vaulted piers lie along the boundary of St Thomas’s Hospital precinct as depicted on later maps. It is therefore conceivable that the piers relate to the medieval hospital building.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The scheduling aims to protect the full known extent of the Roman bath house and the medieval chalk construction and vaulted chalk piers. The maximum extent of the monument is about 22m NE-SW by about 20m NW-SE.

EXCLUSIONS The infilled soil, the overburden, the modern foundations and services and the structures above ground level are all excluded from the scheduling. However the ground below the infill of the excavation and the existing excavated structures are included.

Sources

Books and journals
Cowan, C, Seely, F, Wardle, A , Westman, A, Wheeler, L , Roman Southwark settlement and economy Excavations in Southwark 1973-91, (2009), 1-176
Drummond-Murray, J, Thompson, P, Cowan, C, Settlement in Roman Southwark Archaeological excavations (1991-8) for the London Underground Limited Jubilee Line Extension Project, (2002), 1-149
Websites
Living in Roman London, Londinium Lite - archive of the Museum of London, accessed 22/12/2014 from http://archive.museumoflondon.org.uk/Londinium/analysis/publiclife/structures/16+baths.htm
Other
Oxford Archaeology-Pro-Construct Archaeology '11-15 Borough High Street and 2 London Bridge Street, London Borough of Southwark' (Post Excavation Assessment) (2013)

Legal

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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