Roman Bath House, Castleford

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1428421

Date first listed: 19-Feb-2016

Location Description: Triangular grassed area immediately to the east of the roundabout at the junction of Church Street and Savile Road in Castleford, West Yorkshire

Statutory Address: Savile Road, Castleford, WF10 1PB

Map

Ordnance survey map of Roman Bath House, Castleford
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Location

Statutory Address: Savile Road, Castleford, WF10 1PB

Location Description: Triangular grassed area immediately to the east of the roundabout at the junction of Church Street and Savile Road in Castleford, West Yorkshire

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

District: Wakefield (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference: SE4265425875

Summary

Buried remains of a Roman military bath house, built mid to late AD 80s, excavated during 1978 and re-buried. Situated within the site of a former defensible annexe that was constructed to the north of Castleford Roman fort.

Reasons for Designation

The Roman Bath House, Savile Road, Castleford is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Diversity / occupation: archaeological finds have demonstrated a lengthy occupation and use of the bath house, both by the military and civilian populations of Castleford until the abandonment of the Roman settlement; * Survival / condition: the excavated bath house survives well, wall foundations show the full extent and plan of the structure, with hypocaust flooring, evidence of a plunge pool, and some low sections of up-standing wall; * Archaeological potential: the method of excavation has ensured that considerable archaeological potential remains in the site; * Group value: the bath house has group value with other excavated Roman structures in Castleford.

History

The Roman road built to connect Lincoln (Lindvm) to Catterick (Cataractonivm) crossed the River Aire at a point that has become the modern settlement of Castleford (Lagentivm). The crossing was defended by a timber fort, which was built circa AD 71-74 and was occupied for about fifteen years. A short time later, circa AD 89-90, a second and more substantial fort was built at Castleford, partially over the site of the first fort, but on a slightly different alignment. It was built to the typical ‘playing-card’ layout of a Roman fort, but it also had a defensible annex built against its northern side. This annexe was built to accommodate the camps of visiting military units and for the storage of supplies unloaded from boats on the river. A metalled road running from the north gate of the fort to the river crossed the central axis of the annexe and a military bath house was erected on its western side. The bath house was not only used by the garrison for personal cleanliness, it was also a recreational facility where soldiers could relax, socialise, play board games, gamble, be massaged, and receive personal grooming. The second fort was abandoned by the military in AD 100, but archaeological evidence recovered during the excavation of the bath house, showed that it continued to be used by the civil population of Castleford and passing military units until the late-3rd or early-4th century AD. A variety of small finds were recovered from the bath house including a gaming dice, bone counters for board games, a pair of epilation (hair removal) forceps, and coins of various emperors, including Nero (54-68 AD), Vespasian (69-79 AD), Trajan (98-117 AD), and Constantine (306-337 AD).

The provision of bath houses was considered to be very important to the Roman military, apart from their obvious role in cleanliness, they played an important role in exercise and providing a place for off-duty soldiers to socialise. The bath houses were also frequently adopted by the civil population for the same reasons, and are seen as a significant factor in the Romanisation of the country. The bath house at Castleford was initially used by the military but later, it was also used by the civil population.

Extensive archaeological investigations of the Roman remains of Castleford were undertaken by the West Yorkshire Archaeological Unit between 1974 and 1985. The location of the bath house was first identified in a series of trial pits, prior to the demolition of a number of modern buildings in 1978 and was subsequently investigated as a large, open-area rescue excavation. Due to the quality of the archaeological survival, a decision was taken that the upstanding features and floors should not be removed; consequently, information on the construction of the bath house is incomplete and the pre bath house levels have not been revealed. The full extent of the northern end of the bath house was not exposed during the excavation; however, a sewer trench has since been cut in the surface of Aire Street, exposing the probable north-west corner of the structure. On completion of the excavations in November 1978, the remains were re-buried for protection.

Details

Principal elements: buried remains of a late 1st century AD Roman military bath house, uncovered by excavation by the West Yorkshire Archaeological Unit during 1978.

Description: Buried remains of a Roman military bath house built circa AD 90, as a detached sub-rectangular plan building, approximately 23m x 13m in size, on a north - south axis, within the defensible military annexe of the Roman Fort of Langentivm (Castleford). The bath house is situated on the northern edge of Castleford town centre; it is located in a triangular-plan grassed traffic island, flanked by Church Street to the west, Savile Road / Aire Street to the north, and a disused car park access road to the south-east.

The bath house was built of dressed limestone blocks bonded with mortar. It had six rooms; the plan form is readable, although most walls have been robbed to foundation level. The most northerly room is the apodyterium (changing room) and it was only partially exposed during the archaeological excavations. The full internal extent of the room, 11.20m x 6.65m was not appreciated until the walls of the north-west corner were exposed in a trench when a sewer pipeline was laid beneath the road surface of Aire Street. The extent of the structure to the south of the apodyterium was fully defined by the excavation. A narrow rectangular room identified at the time of the first excavation by West Yorkshire Archaeological Unit as the apodyterium, is now considered to be the lobby of the apodyterium that allowed access into the frigidarium (cold room).

The frigidarium and the cold plunge bath occupied the next room to the south, which formed a 11.20m wide and between 4.50 – 4.80m rectangular room plan. The cold plunge bath measured 4.80m x 2.90m and was situated at the eastern end of the room. The frigidarium has a mortar floor with evidence of foundation for a rectangular water trough or cistern situated towards the centre of the room, associated with a drain that passes out through the wall to the north. The floor and walls of the plunge bath were plastered with opus signinum that was quartered (regularly patterned with incised lines representing ashlar stone courses). The floor of the bath was at the same level as that of the frigidarium and the water was retained by a low partition wall.

The tepidarium (warm room) is a 7.40 x 4.90m rectangular-plan room situated immediately to the south of the frigidarium with its eastern wall butted up against the flue channels from the northern end of the praefurnium (heating furnace room). Although not fully excavated, evidence shows that the bath house was reconstructed and that the floor had two phases of construction, and some pilae (pillars of tiles supporting the hypocaust heated floor over a vented space) remained in situ.

The caldarium (hot / steam room) is a rectangular-plan room of similar dimensions to the tepidarium, with the exception that there is a projecting apse in the west wall that probably contained the hot bath. Like the tepidarium, the hypocaust floor of the caldarium was also built in two phases on pillae and a below-floor opening in the east wall connects to the praefurnium.

The praefurnium (heating furnace room) was integral to and within the rectangular bath house plan. The room was situated against the east walls of the tepidarium and the caldarium; it contained two furnaces and associated flue stacks, and a small extension, possibly a fuel store or combustion chamber, projects out from the eastern wall opposite the southern flue stack.

Extent of Scheduling: the monument includes the full known extent of the bath house, which was exposed by the West Yorkshire Archaeological Unit in 1978, and also includes the area of the apodyterium, the north-west corner of which was exposed at a later date during the laying of a sewer pipeline. The sub-trapizodal area of protection at its widest extent measures 25 x 33m and is predominantly located within the traffic island bounded by Church Street to the west, Savile Road / Aire Street to the north, and a disused car park access road to the south-east. A rectangular extension on the northern edge of the trapizodal area extends out beneath the surface of Aire Street.

Exclusions: the modern road surface and the adjacent paving that overlay the apodyterium are excluded from the scheduling. The steel sheet piling acting as road retaining is included in the scheduling for the support and protection of the monument.

Sources

Books and journals
Breeze, David J (author), Roman Forts in Britain, (1983)
West Yorkshire Archaeology Service, , Roman Castleford Excavations 1974-85, Volume II, (1999), 28 - 35
Wilson, Roger (Author), Roman Forts - An Illustrated Introduction to the Garrison Posts of Roman Britain, (1980)

End of official listing