Roman Bathhouse at Carlisle

This afternoon I am re-visiting the recently discovered high status Roman Bathhouse at Carlisle in N.W. England.This follows the site featuring on yesterday's Digging for Britain history show on BBC2 from which much of the information herein was sourced.

During 2023 I visited the site and associated museum displays on two occasions, viz:


Carlisle is a city in N.W. England which sits at the western end of the 2nd century AD fortification known as Hadrian's Wall.

Unfortunately, Carlisle is prone to flooding. In 2005 the River Eden burst its banks and flooded the local Cricket Club. Prior to instigating a major restitution programme the Cricket Club ordered an archaeological survey of the site completely oblivious to the scale of the finds that were to be revealed.

River Eden

 Carlisle Cricket Club


The archaeological programme revealed an extensive, very high status Roman Bath complex measuring about 50m (165 ft) by 50m (165ft) which probably extended to two storeys.This may have been the largest single building along the line of Hadrian's Wall.The architecture included unusual vaulting tubes of North African design.A number of tiles have been found with inscriptions indicating they were commissioned for the Imperial Roman Court. Overall, this building was the apogee of Roman civilisation. More information on finds can be found via the above two links recording my 2023 visits.

Excavation site (covered up out of season)

 Why such luxury in Carlisle?

The catalyst was the perceived need by the Romans to subjugate the troublesome northern tribes in what is now Scotland.The emperor, Septimus Severus landed in AD 208 (in southern Britain) with a force of 40,000. The invasion lasted until late AD210 when Severus became ill and died on Feb 4th 211 at York in eastern England. Severus failed in his ultimate objective but did succeed in crippling the ability of the tribes to raid into Roman controlled territory.After Severus's death the Roman forces withdrew to Hadrian's Wall. 

Current thinking is the baths at Carlisle were built to accommodate Severus and his entourage. African influences at the bathhouse may reflect Severus's cultural background; he was born in modern day Libya ( N. Africa).

The future.

Subject to availability of funding, it appears that the site may yield up more treasures and information.


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