Have you ever wondered what goes on behind those ‘Staff only’ doors in museum? Then this is the tour for you!
The tour was led by Susan Fox, Collection Manager at the Roman Baths and this enabled us to get close to some interesting and fascinating objects.
The tour took us through the store rooms of the Baths which were under the East Bath, Stall Street and Primark. To prevent rising damp and leakages on to the objects in the stores, the ceiling has a special lining but this meant that everything was very hot to keep the area waterproof! We were very grateful for our breaks by the Great Bath.
We were shown a small room where finds were sorted. There were maps on the wall showing were objects were found (Keynsham apparently has it’s own store!) and this is where we handled our first objects, a hand axe (older then the Neanderthals!), a ‘Becker’ people pot, a roman pot and a Medieval one. It was interesting to see how pottery has evolved and got better and purer and how Roman pots are so well reproduced in the modern world (The Roman pots look like the vases you can pick up on holiday! You can see why people get confused). We also got to handle a floor tile from the same period.
We then moved on to another store room where we were shown how they label and store finds across the Bath area (you can get in touch if you want to know what has been found in your area). Susan also showed us the Georgian stores which use to have a ‘double seat’ toilet in it! (There is a Roman drain in the room that is now visible through a glass panel).
Then we moved through to the part of the museum where the Courtyard of the temple can be seen and went through a hidden door into a corridor and after ducking into a tunnel where we saw an old bath that was being rediscovered and a Victorian pump for the water and the modern one that has been put in so people can sample the ‘healing waters’ at the end of the museum.
We then continued into the stone store where we saw lots of stone from both excavations at the Baths as well as stones of note from across the city (from when some of the old building were pulled down after WW2 because of damage sustained due to bombing). There were some interesting finds like a split in two Medieval stone (even with a rubbing they cannot make out the Latin written on them) but for those who are true Bathonians then the excitement of discovering photos and a statue from the Old ‘New King baths’ brought back happy memories of learning to swim.
We then went on to the Cataloging room where objects are sorted and put into storage, We got to handle more objects in this room, some iron things which ranged from folded up curses to medieval brooch and then a wooden stylus and stake ends that had been preserved. We also got to hold a baby mammoth tooth!! It was massive.
I enjoyed the tour and would recommend it to anyone interested in history, especially local history. If you can’t make the University organised tour you can book here: