York Legionary Bath House
This pub is located in the north corner of St. Samson's Square, nearest the Minster, just south of the site of the porta principia sinistra, the south-eastern gateway of the Roman legionary fortress, which was discovered in 1854 beneath King's Square along with the important inscription Rib 665.
The pub is remarkable because during excavation of the site in the 1980's? the caldarium or 'hot room' of a Roman legionary bath-house was discovered. This building was originally erected close inside the south-eastern defenses of the Roman fortress, possibly sometime during the early second century AD.
The Roman Legionary Bath House
Rooms Presented in Viewing Order
Caldarium The floor of this room was originally raised upon columns or pilae of specially made tiles to a hieght of around four feet above the level of the foundations. This gave space enough for the hot gases from the furnaces to circulate underneath the floor, which thus heated the room above. The waste fumes were conducted up through the walls in specially constructed 'box-flues' to be expelled through vents in the roof of the building. The atmosphere within the caldarium was thus heated both from beneath the floor and from behind the walls, making it imperative that any Roman patrons of this room would not only have to wear sandals to prevent scorching their feet but must also learn to avoid touching the walls with their bare hands.
?cold plunge bath? This room of the exhibit contains a reconstruction of a section of floor from the adjoining caldarium, using original materials recovered from the site. This demonstrates the height of the original bath-house floor above the hypocaust heating system, and also shows an example of the tessallated tiling which adorned the original caldarium floor.
Balneum This apsidal chamber was heated from beneath by spare gases from the adjacent caldarium which was conducted through the adjoining wall through two parallel channels, this being the case, the temperature in this room would have been somewhat cooler than that in the caldarium. The floor of this room was again raised upon pilae of red clay tiles though this time only by a couple of feet. The surface of the floor and lower walls of this room were sealed with a layer of opus signinum, a peculiar Roman material made from a mixture of ceramic fragments and lime, which rendered it waterproof. In light of these findings it seems likely that this chamber housed a large semicircular sunken bath, the waterproof layer of opus signinum is still evident on the walls as a white coating over the stones.
Fornax This room housed the furnaces and the slaves required to keep them fully-stoked, but lay beyond the perimeter of the Roman Bath Inn to the north and therefore not visible from within the pub's cellars. In most bath houses these rooms were nothing more than lean-to structures, built of timber and hidden away from the main entrance to the baths, which here lay on the western side of the building.
Map References for York Legionary Bath House
Roman Roads near York Legionary Bath House