Originally a Roman fort called Eboracum, the city of York is believed to have been founded in 71 CE by the famous Ninth Legion. Several ruins still stand throughout the city, and one of the most fascinating sites can be found inside a popular public house that is aptly named The Roman Bath.
Established in the late 1920’s replacing the Mail Coach Inn, the pub is a Grade II listed building with a half-timbered, Tudor Revival-style façade, but its main attraction lies 15 feet below the unassuming modern barroom.
Discovered in 1930 while digging a new cellar, the well-preserved remains of an ancient bathhouse once served the military personnel of Eboracum, up until the late fourth century. It consists of trepidarium (warm room), caldarium (hot plunge bath), and frigidarium (cold pool), the latter of which only survives fragmentally today. Additionally, excavations on the nearby street of Swinegate in the 1970’s revealed a Roman sewer system that must have been used to carry wastewater from the baths.
The Roman Bath Museum beneath the pub displays several artifacts excavated at the site, including tiles showing ancient footprint indentations, a legionary insignia which might have been that of the Ninth, and carved objects resembling chess pieces.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open daily from 11 am to 4 pm. Adult admission is £3.50 but entrance is free with the York Pass. There is a "Dressing Up Corner" where children (and adults) can dress in Roman costumes, including togas, military helmets, and sandals.
The site is in the basement of the pub, so visitors will need to be able to navigate a flight of stairs down, and another one which leads up into the pub.