One of the most interesting things Alex and I saw in Bath was the ancient Roman spa built right over the spring. Amazingly, this was only discovered by street workers in the 1800s, and was completely unknown in Jane Austen’s day. Yet the famed Bath Pump Room is literally right over the ruins of the pools and temples of the Roman site.
Here you can see the Pump Room bay window, and the Roman pool right below. It is thought that the Romans were here as long ago as the 1st Century. Apparently the temple-and-spa complex in this place was quite extensive, lasting hundreds of years and, as seen from the excavated structures that remain, a location of great importance in Roman Britain. The site has yielded some of the most complete Roman artifacts to be uncovered. It was interesting to see what life was like back then through the things that were found: somehow one doesn’t think of people having eyebrow tweezers in the time of Christ.
The museum and tour of the Roman baths were well worth the investment: utterly fascinating and so, so beautiful. The combination of the 1700s Bath with the ancient version down below was amazing. This is why Bath is called a “world heritage site.”
My favorite part was the large central pool. It is fed by the natural underground spring (the only hot spring in Britain), which is channeled into it via brick streams built by the Romans. We learned that the sheets of lead lining the pool that are still leak-proof today have been there since the place was built. The water is slightly green from algae today, but the whole enclosure was shielded from sunlight by a high wooden roof back in the day. We saw it on a chilly April day and clouds of steam were softly rising from the warm water. Raindrops were plinking into it at different times, too.
As of 2006, there is a modern spa at Bath. Nearby Thermae Bath Spa, a gorgeous four-story spa complex featuring an open-air roof top heated pool, fully uses the natural mineral waters of the spring. We spent the next afternoon there, and that was lovely, too.