Monday, 13 February 2012

20 feet below the high street

We went for a walk around town yesterday, then decided to go and visit the spring of the Roman Baths, as we do every now and then. We find it calming to stand next to it in the warm and steamy atmosphere, watching the hot water gush out like it has for thousands of years.

Being residents, we can get into the whole complex for free, but thousands of tourists pay a lot of money to come here every year - all year - making Bath City Council one of the richest in the country... don't get me started...

These steps to the Great Bath were only uncovered about 25 years ago, but you can see from the wear to them that the Baths have been a popular destination for many thousands of years. The stone they are made of is quite hard - it must have taken a great deal of footfall for them to lose about seven inches from the top like that.

The Temple Precinct which they lead down to has only been open to the public for that long, and I spent quite a while working down there before and after the opening, shifting massive blocks back to their original position and applying lime poultice to others. I used to go down to it years afterwards, and because the staff recognised me, I didn't pay then either.

These days, I have friends who work down there as actors, and they wander about pretending to be Romans, telling lies to the tourists. One of them pretends to be a Roman stonemason - I provided him with the tools of his trade - and when I first saw him sitting there in his toga with a mallet and chisel in his hand, he panicked and started whispering to me, "I haven't a clue what I am talking about!" I told him not to worry as he was an actor, so he could just pretend.

There is a running video on a wall near the Great Bath which depicts a Roman stonemason using an axe, surrounded by massive blocks in a quarry somewhere. He is another friend of mine, but the difference is that he is a real stonemason. His name is Lawrence Tindall, and over the years we have worked a lot together - some of that time down in the Baths themselves.

Whenever some multi-national company tries to get a foothold in a period property here in Bath, their argument usually centres on a form of moral blackmail along the lines of, 'You don't want to live in a museum, do you?' Well actually, yes I do.

Put it this way, I would rather live in the museum that produces a large income for the city than live in a shopping mall which produces a vast income for the high street retail chains who are the only ones that can afford to sit on the high street these days, such is the greed, avarice and short-sightedness of our city fathers.

You can go to any town in Britain to visit a Tesco, but there is only one Roman Baths.


  1. funny....just completed a museum blog entry myself..... must be something in the air

  2. Yes - I've just seen it. We must be psychic (psychotic?)

  3. At least the money is going somewhere where it can do good for everyone, unlike places where the few already rich get the money. It is years since I went down into the depths in Bath but I still remember that steamy smell. (No Tom, I am sure it wasn't you)

  4. I love the baths in Bath ....very atmospheric ... a great legacy left to us by the Romans and amazing that they have survived.
    Is it in the Stonemasons job description to have thick silvery white hair ?

  5. Like most people, I have only seen pictures of the bits above ground... which are pretty spectacular. So much of the world to visit; so little time.

  6. Wow! Absolutely fascinating ... Bath is still, unfortunately, till on my 'to do' list.

    1. I know people who have lived here for 30 years, and never once seen the Baths.

  7. For a minute there Tom I thought you were tunneling under the high street bank vault.