An occasional series covering Hampshire digs large and small; the rescue excavation of a bath-house discovered during building works at Neatham.
Another dip into the photographic archive presented to Hampshire Cultural Trust by Gareth Thomas.
Tucked away in the stores at Chilcomb House, headquarters of the Trust, are large slabs of well-wrapped Roman wall plaster, salvaged from the site at Neatham in 1979. Work had taken place there between 1969 and 1976 and this activity drew the attention of ‘treasure hunters’ to the fringes of the area. One feature which they exposed, hard up against the Alton to Woking railway line, was a small bath-house.
The bath-house was located to the rear of a line of properties fronting the Silchester to Chichester Roman road and could be dated to the third/fourth century. Its size suggested it was a private establishment. It was constructed of stone and probably belonged to a timber-built house or shop situated about 4m away. A parallel to this arrangement of small detached baths was excavated at Farnham, but is not generally known elsewhere.
The area available for excavation consisted of two rooms with a combined length of 3.7m. One of them, with a step down into it, was interpreted as a cold plunge bath. The floor had originally consisted of tiles 250mm square, which had been robbed-out in antiquity, leaving only the tile impressions in the mortar of the floor. The walls were thickly plastered, in at least two phases, and the surface was pinkish red. The plaster was lifted by John Price of the Ancient Monuments Laboratory.
The bath-house was one of only two stone buildings among the 24 identified during the rescue excavations. The remainder were all of timber, and built in varying styles, although by the third century they formed a ribbon development focused on the two principal roads of the settlement.
Further reading: Excavations on the Romano-British Small Town at Neatham, Hampshire, 1969-1979, M Millett & D Graham (1986) Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc, Monograph 3.
Series by: Anne Aldis, Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone.