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Building Roman Bradford on Avon

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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The builders of the large houses -Roman villas- of well-off Romano-British people called on a wide variety of materials that could be brought from some distance on the network of good roads.

Only the lowest parts of the walls are usually found in excavations. The higher parts may well have been robbed for later buildings, or they might have been of timber-framed construction.

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Atworth-Roman-Villa-excavations-1938

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The bath house of the Atworth Roman Villa, built with coursed limestone blocks that have been trimmed all round except at the back.

entrance to Budbury villa.

Well cut and finished limestone was used at the threshold of the main house of the Budbury (St Laurence School) villa.

 

Atworth Roman Villa
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Cut stone was also used for a flight of steps leading from the house to the baths at Atworth.
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threshold stones.

The two large squared blocks are the thresholds (limines) at the entrance to rooms in the Budbury baths. The shallow holes in each may have held the hinge of doors.

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bath house Pennant flagstones.

The grey flagstones on the right were the floor of the room of the baths that held the cold plunge bath. They are made from Pennant Sandstone which would have brought from the neighbourhood of modern Bristol.

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Pennant Sandstone roofing.

Pennant Sandstone was also used to cover the roof  of the Budbury villa, or at least the baths. Being heavy, the tilestones (tegulae) would have been difficult and expensive to transport and required strong roof timbers to support them. The hexagonal tilestones would have been hung by a nail or peg of wood or bone through a hole and fitted together in overlapping courses.

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covered drain.

Below the buildings were drains to carry water away from roofs, baths, kitchens and workshops. The drainage trenches were lined with stone and then covered with other stones, some showing chisel working.

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piece of Roman box tile.

Certain rooms were heated by a system called a hypocaust– hot air from a furnace circulated under the concrete floor, which was supported on stones or columns of bricks (pilae). There was no chimney, but the air was carried up through the walls to perhaps warm upstairs rooms. This is part of a terracotta rectangular pipe (tubulus) that was buried in a wall. The scratched pattern was to provide a key for mortar and for plaster.

painted plaster.

Some of the walls of a villa would have been plastered, especially the baths. The plaster of the baths at Budbury was painted, but it broke up into pieces when the ceiling and walls fell down. Some of the pieces were preserved and were excavated, but had been jumbled. An attempt has been made recently to match some of the pieces and discover the decorative scheme.

Examples of the plaster are on display in Bradford on Avon Museum, on loan from the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre.

archaeology