Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Roman Bath Museum, York

In 1929, a major fire destroyed most of the Mail Coach Inn, a pub on St. Sampson's Square in York. When the owners decided to rebuild, they wanted to expand the cellar. Digging started and then stopped when they came upon the ruins of a Roman Bath! Naturally they changed the name of the pub and put a museum in downstairs.

Roman Bath pub

The pub sign!

A small staircase leads down into the museum where the remains of the bath can be seen. The Romans built a large fortress called Eboracum in AD 71 but these baths probably date from the 300s. It was a massive fort covering 50 acres and providing all the necessaries for 5000 soldiers. The bath house was probably quite sizable since it was used not only for bathing but as a spa, drinking house, and restaurant.

Stairs leading down

Non-vintage sign

The first room visible is the caldarium, or hot steam room. The floor was was raised and hot air blasted through from a furnace. The floor was covered with water which became very hot (the Romans wore wooden clogs to walk on the floor) and made the room steamy. The soldiers could hang out any time of day.


Mural showing what it was probably like back in the day

Around a corner is another room, the frigidarium, which was a cold plunge pool. Modern spa torture apparently began many, many years ago! Only a small part of the frigidarium is visible today.


The museum is rather small and does not include the whole bath complex, only what's under the current day pub. The museum includes lots of displays of Roman armor (visitors can even try some on) and archeological discoveries, as well as the occasional replicas.

Weapons and armor to try out

Military outfit

A replica sword

A bigger replica sword

Old and new items

Roman tiles with stamps

Bust of a woman

Bust of a man

I felt the museum was a little overpriced for the size (it really is just two rooms) but it is still fun to see the ancient Roman ruins.

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