About Roman Bath House Museum
In 1930 when the Mail Coach Inn in St. Sampson’s Square in York was undergoing renovations, builders uncovered the 1,900 year-old remains of a Roman ‘caldarium’, or steam bath. The bath house was used by the soldiers of the Legio XI Hispana (Spanish Ninth Legion) who were stationed in Eboracum – modern day York – from 71AD to c.121AD.
The caldarium and the neighbouring plunge pools were excavated and the small museum, now in the basement of the Roman Bath pub displays a snapshot of the life of a Roman legionnaire.
Roman ‘caldaria’ were not just for bathing. They were more like a cross between a leisure centre and a casino where cleaning the body and dirtying the mind were de rigeur. Deals were agreed, games were played for money, exercise was done and the atmosphere was rowdy. Not too far removed from modern day pubs…
Today visitors can see the well-preserved remains of a semi-circular bath, the hypocaust – the underfloor heating system where steam from the furnaces is pushed through, warming up the floor tiles – and the apsidal walls as well as armour and weapons. Some of the tiles appear to show the official seal of the Legio XI Hispana and you can clearly see the imprints in the tiles of nails from the sandals of the soldiers.
Rumours of recent patrons hearing the ghostly sounds of splashing water and the clunk of a spear or shield are largely unfounded but for an up close and personal look at Roman life in York almost 2,000 years ago, visit the Roman Baths pub. You’re assured of a lot more than a pint and a pie!