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Jewry Wall: remains of a Roman bath house, palaestra and Anglo-Saxon church

A Scheduled Monument in Abbey, Leicester

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Latitude: 52.6351 / 52°38'6"N

Longitude: -1.1413 / 1°8'28"W

OS Eastings: 458212.835688

OS Northings: 304490.756222

OS Grid: SK582044

Mapcode National: GBR FFK.18

Mapcode Global: WHDJJ.F1S7

Entry Name: Jewry Wall: remains of a Roman bath house, palaestra and Anglo-Saxon church

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 13 June 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013312

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17154

County: Leicester

Electoral Ward/Division: Abbey

Built-Up Area: Leicester

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Leicester The Holy Spirit

Church of England Diocese: Leicester


The monument includes the above-ground and buried remains of a Roman
bath house and palaestra (exercise hall) constructed in the 2nd century AD in
the northern half of Insula XXI of the Roman town, Ratae Coritanorum. The
visible remains of the bath house are represented by a mixture of consolidated
surviving masonary, reconstruction (the hypocaust bases, for example, are all
modern replicas) and the delineation of robber wrenches by modern kerbs. In
the post-Roman period the buildings were partially demolished and an Anglo-
Saxon church was built on the site of the palaestra. In the 18th and 19th
centuries the only standing piece of Roman masonry surviving above ground was
a fragment of the west wall of the palaestra, against which a succession of
domestic and industrial buildings were erected. In 1920 this fragment, known
as the Jewry Wall, was taken into state care and in 1936 the site of the bath
house was cleared of modern buildings. Archaeological excavations carried out
between 1936 and 1939 uncovered the remains of the bath house, and the
surviving parts are now exposed for public display. The site of the palaestra
and Anglo-Saxon church is now largely occupied by the present church of St
Nicholas and surrounding graveyard. The Church of St Nicholas is a Grade B
Listed Building and is excluded from the scheduling although the ground
beneath it is included. The churchyard, which is no longer used for burial,
and the Jewry Wall, which is Listed Grade I, are included in the scheduling.

The excavated remains of the bath house lie on the east side of the Jewry Wall
Museum and take the form of a series of stone foundations, partially restored
and consolidated for public presentation. They include, immediately adjacent
to the museum building, the remains of three large rectangular halls
representing caldaria (hot baths); on each of the north and south sides is a
semicircular extension where a cold plunge bath was situated. Attached to the
east are the remains of three smaller rectangular rooms representing tepidaria
(warm baths) and including the remains of a hypocaust. The bath house is
joined to the palaestra on the east by two blocks of rooms which were built,
with the palaestra, at a slightly earlier date; that on the north contains the
remains of a latrine which is connected to a series of stone-lined drains
running on the north, east and south sides of the bath house. Between the two
blocks is an open rectangular area, believed to have been the frigidarium
where cold water basins were located. On the north side of the bath house are
the foundations of stone walls believed to represent the remains of a portico
which ran along the edge of the insula, and in which road side shops may have
stood. Fragments of pre-Roman pottery of the early first century AD were
discovered during excavation, indicating that the site of the bath house was
occupied immediately before the Roman Conquest.

On the eastern side of the area of exposed foundations are the standing
remains of the west wall of the palaestra, known as the Jewry Wall. The wall
is constructed of coursed stone and brick and survives to a height of over 9m.
Near the centre of the wall are two doorways which led from the palaestra to
the frigidarium of the bath house; on the eastern face is a series of blind
arches and niches. The foundations of part of a colonnade running inside of,
and parallel to, the west wall of the palaestra have been discovered beneath
St Nicholas Walk. In its entirety the palaestra was a rectangular building
over 50m x 25m with a colonnade on two sides, occupying the north eastern
corner of the insula; the remains of the greater part of the building now lie
buried beneath the present church and churchyard.

In the post-Roman period the Jewry Wall is believed to have served as the west
wall of an Anglo-Saxon church pre-dating the surviving church of St Nicholas.
Partial excavation in the area between the wall and the present church
revealed two post-Roman walls connecting the two structures. The survival of
late Saxon stonework in the fabric of the present building, and the alignment
of the nave on one of the Roman doorways, further indicates the presence of an
earlier church on the site. The remains of the earlier church are largely
overlain by the present one.

The northern wing of Vaughan College, all modern walls, steps, signposts, road
and carpark surfaces, lamp-posts, floodlights and iron railings are excluded
from the scheduling, as are the gravestones and Roman masonry fragments on the
surface of St Nicholas's churchyard; the ground beneath these features is,
however, included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The bath house was one of the principal public buildings of a Roman town. The
practice of communal bathing was an integral part of Roman urban life, and the
public bath house served an important function as a place for relaxation and
social congregation as well as exercise and hygiene. Public bath houses were
used by most inhabitants of Roman towns, including slaves, to the extent that
private bathing facilities in town houses were rare; men and women bathed at
separate times of day, or in separate suites. Bath houses therefore varied in
both size and plan, according to the local population and bathing
arrangements, but all consisted of a series of rooms of graded temperature
containing a variety of plunge-baths. The frigidarium (cold room) led,
progressively, to one or more tepidaria (warm rooms) and caldaria (hot rooms).
Bath houses could also include changing rooms, latrines, sauna and massage
rooms, and were often linked to a palaestra or exercise area, which originated
as an open courtyard but in Britain was later adapted to a covered hall. The
bath house was heated by hypocausts connected to nearby furnaces; it was also
linked to, and depended upon, an engineered water supply which involved the
construction of drains, sewers and an aqueduct.
As a necessity of Roman town life, the public bath house was one of the first
buildings to be constructed after the establishment of a town. Most
bath houses, therefore, originated in the first or second century AD and
continued in use, with alterations, to the fifth century. They are distributed
throughout the towns of Roman Britain, which were principally situated in what
is now eastern, central and southern England and south Wales. In view of their
importance for an understanding of Romano-British urban development and social
practice, all surviving examples are considered to be worthy of protection.

The remains of the Roman bath house and palaestra at Jewry Wall include the
only standing fragments of the Roman town of Leicester, Ratae Coritanorum. The
Jewry Wall itself, representing the west wall of the palaestra, is also rare
in being one of the largest standing pieces of a Roman civilian building in
the country and has contributed significantly to our knowledge of this type of
architecture. The remains of the bath house were excavated in the 1930s and
are thus quite well understood, revealing several unparalleled details on an
unusual plan. The excavations also demonstrated the survival of pre-Roman
deposits at a lower level, which remain intact. As a result of their
presentation for public display, the bath house remains also serve as an
important educational and recreational resource. The area of the palaestra and
overlying Anglo-Saxon church is largely unexcavated and will thus preserve
architectural, artefactual and ecofactual remains of a period of over a
thousand years. The superimposition of the Anglo-Saxon church on the Roman
building will provide a valuable insight into the manner in which civil
authority was transfered to the church between the late Roman period and the
Anglo-Saxon era.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Jewry Wall, (1968)
Liddle, P, A Guide to 20 Archaeological Sites in Leicestershire, (1983), 28-29
Wacher, J, The Towns of Roman Britain, (1975), 342-355
Kenyon, K M, 'Society of Antiquaries Research Report' in Excavations At The Jewry Wall Site, Leicester, , Vol. 15, (1948)
letters to Dr. Kenyon, Clarke, D. T-D, (1959)

Source: Historic England

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