About York Roman Bath Museum
Located beneath the Roman Bath pub, York Roman Bath Museum displays some of the city’s oldest history through the remains of a Roman bath house.
York Roman Bath Museum history
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 71 AD to c.121 AD.
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…
York Roman Bath Museum today
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 the Roman Baths pub is an excellent visit. You’re assured of a lot more than a pint and a pie!
Getting to York Roman Bath Museum
The York Roman Bath Museum is located on St Sampson’s Square the centre of York, which can be reached via the A64 or A19. York railway station is a 15-minute walk away, while a number of bus services stop at Exhibition Square, a 5-minute walk away.