Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it just a big hole? No – it’s archaeology in action! The Tobacco Dock Hotel site at the top of Wapping Lane is under examination again by the people at Pre Construct Archaeology who are having another look at the Shadwell Street Roman Baths.
How exciting is that? Shadwell Street Roman Baths!
You may remember that Pre Construct have worked at this site before as reported in 2011 by What’s in Wapping Roman heritage unearthed at Tobacco Dock.
Shhhh! It’s a secret
Then as now Pre Construct are restricted by a confidentiality agreement with the owners of the land where there may be, one day, perhaps, it might happen, honest, you never know, the Tobacco Dock Hotel.
So they can’t say anything about what they are up to but have asked for permission to let us know something of what’s going on. In the meantime here are some photos we sneaked through the fence a couple of weeks back.
According to the original What’s in Wapping report the site is very significant as in 2002 the second largest Roman bath house in London was discovered that indicated a Roman settlement ‘the size of a small town’ was once there.
Roman Port of Wapping
This is a fascinating report by Alastair Douglas from the December 2004 issue of the Enfield Archaeological Society (PDF).
Shadwell Street Roman Baths
Friday 17 September: Alastair Douglas
“The Society’s opening lecture for Autumn 2004 was given by Alastair Douglas, a senior archaeologist with Pre-Construct Archaeology. His subject was the Shadwell Street Roman bath house in Wapping.
The Roman road running east to Colchester crossed the River Lea at Old Ford (where excavations had been undertaken by the EAS President Harvey Sheldon). A second Roman road ran eastward through the Roman Eastern cemetery and the bath house site was approximately 150 metres south of this. It lies in front of the present-day Tobacco Wharf and also on the adjacent site of the former Babe Ruth fast food restaurant.
Work commenced in Spring 2002 and revealed post-medieval archaeology in the upper levels with Roman archaeology in the lower levels of the southern half of the site. Anything in the northern half had been machined away during modern construction work.
Roman remains included a sequence of wooden buildings, hearths, pottery, animal bones, an opus signinum yard floor, two Roman wells, eighty five bone hair pins and glass. Some rooms were used for eating and others for sleeping. There were also jet bangles, jet rings, shell rings and gold earrings.
Five metres below present ground level was a large room with an apse and under-floor central heating. The bases ofthe brick piers supporting the floor were clearly seen. There was the usual set of hot plunges, tepid room and cool plunges. The apse was heated from a subsidiary furnace and was a hot plunge. There was a drain to remove surplus water. Four distinct phases of construction could be traced with the largest phase dating to about the mid-third century. The sub-floor consisted of a layer of gravel and the flues were made from tile or brick with a pitched roof.
The level of water in the River Thames gradually dropped over the period of Roman occupation, so that the wharves with their massive timber revetments upstream became unusable. It is likely that Roman London’s port had to be moved downstream to Wapping where ships could be beached directly on to the sandy foreshore about 150m from the bath house.
By the mid-fourth century, the bath house had become dilapidated and was demolished around the end of that century. However, occupation on the site persisted for several decades into the fifth century. It is unclear as to whether the bath house formed part of a mansion or was a public building. It has been preserved in situ covered in sand and lies beneath the present new buildings.”
W.O.W – fantastic stuff!!!!!!! Wapping used to be a Roman port! I knew that already but its still exciting! How cool.
Maybe we will get lucky and one day get to look inside? Now that is what the <heart> Wapping Archaeology (Just Amateurs) Team wants for Christmas!