Ravenglass Roman Bath House, Cumbria

The remains of the bath house from Ravenglass Roman Fort survive to a height of over 12ft (3.6m) making it the best preserved Roman building in northern England. Therefore, it is rather surprising that very little is known of the fort or bath house.

Referred to locally as 'Walls Castle', the fort at Ravenglass (known as Glannoventa) occupied an area of some 3.5 acres and was built cAD130. It was known to have been occupied for the best part of 300 years, and was strategically located to protect an important harbour. Garrisoned by more than 1,000 men, supplies would have travelled up through the Hardknott Pass, passing Hardknott Fort, and proceeding to the Roman fort at Ambleside and beyond. Virtually nothing survives of the actual fort, apart from some earthen ramparts.

The bath house remains were located to the north east of the Roman fort. In 1881, excavations revealed that a substantial part of the building lay under the field to the east, revealing the total dimensions of the bath house to be 90ft (27m) x 40ft (12m). The baths comprised a suite of rooms set out in a double row, but the only visible remains today are those of two adjacent rooms, one from each row, and a part wall of a third room. The northernmost room is believed to have been a changing room, but little is known about the original use of the other rooms.

The changing room has a domed niche in one wall, which may have contained a statue, and four doorways. The doorways have shallow arched tops, one of which is nicely set out in stone. There may also have been a window in the north wall but the scant remains make interpretation inconclusive. It is logical to assume that the eastern doorway of this room led to one of the warm rooms, as the remains of a hypocaust were uncovered during the 19th century excavations.

The room in the southern row contains an eastern doorway, and a surviving window in the south facade. There are also several areas where the mellow pink cement rendering remains well preserved. Both rooms have external buttressing, which suggests that the bath house would have almost certainly had a stone built domed roof. These buttresses would have ensured that the weight of the roof didn't force the supporting walls outward.


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