Hampshire Archaeology

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Buried in time – a Romano-British bathhouse at Braishfield

Some 45 years ago a dense scatter of Roman objects was found after ploughing at a previously undisturbed site to the north of Pucknall Farm, Braishfield. The discoveries led to three seasons of excavation, from 1975 onwards. A flint masonry bathhouse was revealed, dated to the late 3rd or very early 4th century AD. It had apparently been demolished within 50 years of its construction. Research in the adjacent area showed that it was part of a major villa complex.

Spy in the sky - an aerial view showing the rural location.

Spy in the sky – an aerial view showing the rural location.

The excavation identified a number of occupation phases beginning about 50 BC to 100 AD and represented by two loam-filled pits containing burnt flint. The proximity of a contemporary corn dryer suggests early-Roman agricultural activity, although no further settlement evidence was found in this area.

General view of the excavation - the scorching resulting from the underfloor heating is very evident.

General view of the excavation – the scorching resulting from the underfloor heating is very evident.

Another general view of work in progress

Another general view of work in progress

The second phase consisted of a simple square bathhouse of five rooms, two of which were served by a hypocaust under-floor heating.

Later, two further heated rooms and a small wing containing an ornate pool were added; the stokehole area was enclosed. The building was probably re-plastered and painted in this period and furnished with apses and opus signinum floors. Two of the seven rooms were laid out in similar fashion to those found at Sparsholt Roman villa, while a third seems to have been used as a smithy. The exact date of what turned out to be a thorough demolition is unknown.

The small, but ornate, plunge pool.

The small, but ornate, plunge pool, with drain in the foreground.

Finds were sparse and included two copper alloy brooches and a quantity of iron artefacts, including nails, which were possibly part of door fittings, or boot cleats. A small number of pottery finds were early 2nd century, among them being a piece of samian ware, while a much larger quantity was identified as being late 3rd, or early 4th century, and included examples of Oxford, New Forest and possibly Alice Holt wares.

Tiles with 'signatures' or tally marks.

Tiles with ‘signatures’ or tally marks.

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Of the building itself, the fragments of painted plaster were insufficient to reveal an overall pattern and the ceramic building material was of the standard variety,   although there were some intriguing ‘signatures’ and other marks.

 

Animal bone evidence provided the typical mix to be expected from a Roman rural site and the identifiable fragments were mostly of cattle and sheep or goat

Further reading:

Rogers & Walker, 1984, A Detached Bathouse at Braishfield, Hants Field Club Proceedings Vol 41, p 69-80

A1984.18 Archive held by Hampshire Cultural Trust

Series by Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone, with help from Stacie Elliot.

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2 Comments

  1. Stephen cooper says:

    One. Of the first excavation I worked on the rare several Roman building in the surrounding fields a large complex in scale of chat worth ?

  2. willhayfield says:

    surprising that no one did more excavation…hope you’re doing well Steve…best wishes

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