Temples, Walls, And Some of the Roman Antiquities of Bath

A Lecture Delivered at the Guildhall, March 2, 1853 by Rev. H.M. Scarth, M.A., Rector of Bathwick.

To understand the ancient history of the country in which we live, to know something of the arts and manners of the people who have preceded us, to ascertain what we owe to them, and to know what influence their times and their works have had upon our own, can never be an unprofitable study.

But if traces of great works of past ages are still to be found amongst us, and if these works exhibit a great knowledge of art, if they shew the hand of a people highly civilized, they become deeply interesting, and we may derive much benefit from their consideration. The study of them will cast much light upon the records of ancient history which have been handed down to us; they serve to give life and light to that history, and fill its pages with living realities when we see the very stones and remnants of buildings which the hands of the men of whom we read have put together.

How many men travel into distant countries for the sake of investigating the works of art of past times, and to inform themselves of the realities of what they have read and heard at home, and return enlightened, and convinced, and improved by such research. If, then, we have, within our own neighbourhood, and in this our city, ancient historical records, should we not carefully consider them—should we not preserve them with care? and can the time occupied in their study be badly spent,—can it be unprofitably employed? It shall be my endeavour to shew that such a study may be turned to good account, and to the improvement of anyone who shall undertake it in a proper spirit.

Many there are who, on a fine evening, have ascended some of the hills with which Bath is surrounded, and have loved to look down upon the fine city at their feet. They have marked its handsome streets and noble churches; its winding river, with the bridges spanning its breadth, and heard the hum of its active movement, and seen its people passing to and fro, and have observed the beauty of its situation; its hanging terraces; and the green fields and gardens that surround them. Such a sight, on a fine summer’s evening, or on a bright spring morning, has filled many a heart with delight, and led it to ponder upon the rise and origin of this ancient city, and the many generations that have lived and died within its shadow, and all the varied events that have happened within its precincts. It may well be supposed that snch a situation, and a spot endowed with so many natural advantages, was very early made a place of resort; and such we find to have been the case. We have preserved, happily, amongst us, many undoubted records that Bath was very early made a place of resort, and a place of elegant refinement. This city is richer in ancient Roman remains, than, probably, any other in England. Had all the antiquities which have been discovered in the neighbourhood of Bath, as well as in Bath itself, been preserved and brought together, the collection would have surpassed any in this country. It is well known that many have been dispersed and lost, and that much of what has been found in the neighbourhood has been allowed to pass away from the city, instead of being brought to it and carefully kept within it; however, very many of the interesting remains which have been found within the city itself have been, and still are, carefully preserved, and are now to be seen in the Literary Institution. Much has been written upon them by very learned and accurate investigators, and excellent drawings have been made of them; but it is to be feared that the present generation know. less of them, and is less interested in their preservation, than the past. I would, therefore, desire to call especial attention to their value as historical records. I will not trouble you with ancient legends respecting Bath, with stories of Bladud and his pigs, and many marvellous occurrences, which would amuse rather than instruct, but at once go to the most authentic sources of information, and take the subjects best worth comment.

The first rise of Bath is involved in much obscurity, and the period when it was first occupied by the Romans is very doubtful. Camalodunum was the first colony planted by that people in this country, the precise situation of which has been a matter of much dispute. Camden, Gibson, Horsley, and Mr. Reynolds, place it at Malden; Richard, of Cirencester, Dr. Stukely, Bishop Stellinglleet, Baxter, Morant, Dr. Mason, Mr. Gough, Drake, and the Rev. Mr. Leman, place it at Colchester, which, on account of the Roman remains there, seems to have the better claim, as well as in point of situation. It has, however, been also fixed at Camerton, in Somersetshire, near Bath, and the late Mr. Skinner wrote a paper endeavouring to prove this, which is published in Phelp’s History 0f Somerset. There appears to have been more than one place of that name. Camalus, or Camulus, is said to be the ancient Celtic title of Mars, the God of War, and dunum signifies a hill; hence Camalodunum would signify the Hill of Mars, a title, no doubt, given to many spots in this country, which may account for the many opinions expressed about the site of the first Roman colony. This colony was settled A.D. 50, by the Roman General Ostorius, before he led his expedition against the Silures, or inhabitants of South Wales; and for such a purpose Camerton seems better situated than Colchester.

The settlement of the Romans at Camalodunum was afterwards attacked and destroyed in the revolt of the Britons under Queen Boadicea, and it is certain that after that insurrection was quelled, and the Britons again brought under subjection, Bath became a place of note; and it may have been, for a time, the head quarters of the legion which held this portion of the island, and the Governor’s residence may have been fixed here for a certain period. Mr. Skinner observes, “we have good reason for supposing that the Proprietor, Julius Frontinus, who succeeded Suetonius, had established his head quarters at Bath when he carried on his campaign against the Silures, since the military way proceeding to the Trajectus, now called Sea Mills, at the mouth of the Avon, was called Via Julia, after his name.” From this time we may date the rise of the many beautiful edifices which anciently adorned the city, important remains of which have been preserved to the present time. We may date their erection some time toward the end of the first, or beginning of the second century of the Christian era, and they may, therefore, be between 1700 and 1800 years old. We find an inscription on the front of a temple, which commemorates its restoration, after it had fallen into decay, “E Nimia Vestustate,” whence we infer that its first erection could not have been much later than the second century. The form of the letters in the part of the inscription which remains, as well as the skill of the workman who engraved them, would seem to prove that the restoration itself must have taken place a considerable time before the Romans left Britain. The Romans had possession of Bath probably for 400 years, and during that time it was a place of great resort, and much beautified by them. The ancient name was either “Aquæ Solis,” as it is written in the earliest itinerary, that of Antoninus, or ” Aquæ Sulis,” as has been conjectured, from the name of the Goddess who was worshipped here, and believed to preside over the medicinal springs. Most of the altars which have been discovered, of which there are many, are dedicated to the Goddess” Sul-Minerva.” Hence it has been conjectured that the name of the city was ” Aquæ Sulis,” and that” Sul” was an ancient British Goddess, to which the Romans added the name “Minerva;” and as Sul appears to have been the name of the British Goddess of health, the Romans would have designated her by the name of “Minerva Medica.”

This Goddess had one or two temples dedicated to her, one of which stood on the site of the modern Pump Room, and was, probably, like that of Minerva Medica at Rome, circular, and had a portico of Corinthian columns. One of these columns still remains, and is preserved in the hall of the Literary Institution. The workmanship appears to point to the time of the Emperor Titus. The hill called Salisbury, or Little Salisbury, more properly Sulisbury, which overlooks Swainswick and Batheaston, is supposed to have been named by the Ancient Britons after the Goddess” Sul,” and to have been the site of her worship, and that she was the principal object of adoration to all this part of the country; Salisbury Plain being also named from her. An ancient British city also stood on the opposite hill, Hampton Down, where traces are now very visible; but of these cities, and their remains, I must at present defer to speak, directing my remarks to the remains discovered in Bath.

Some writers suppose that the name of Bath was called ” Aquæ Solis,” on account of the hot springs which characterized the city, and by which it was distinguished from ” Wells,” which was called “Aquæ,” on account of the cold springs there. A direct Roman road leads between the two places, which were both anciently Roman towns.

Many fragments of the portico of a temple were discovered on the site of the present Pump Room. “No one,” says Mr. Lysons, “who attentively considers these several fragments, can doubt their having belonged to the same building; and the figures which remain so clearly indicate it to have been a, Temple of Minerva,’ that I have no doubt of its having been the same which is mentioned by the Roman Historian, Solinus (who wrote in the decline of the Roman Empire), when speaking of the hot springs of this island, and the magnificent buildings which had been erected for their reception.” It is curious, to remark the description given by this writer. He says the hot springs were adorned with elegant and costly buildings, and were for general use, “Ad usus Mortalium.”

He tells us that “Minerva” presided over these springs, and that in her Temple “perpetual fires” were kept burning, which were fed with fuel which did not turn to white ashes, but into stony balls, or cinders, when consumed by the fire. Thus, we learn, that this Temple was similar to the Temple of Vesta, at Rome, where a fire was kept buruing continually; but that this fire was fed with coal, as we infer from his peculiar description of the fuel after combustion, that it turned to
cinders, or into “stony balls,” as he terms them. No doubt the fire was fed with mineral coal, which is found about Newton.*  The use of coal was then a novelty; in fact, this is the earliest mention we have of the use of coal in this island, which appears to have been, in this case, employed in the service of the Temple, and burnt upon the altar in it. It is curious and instructive to contemplate how, in the lapse of ages, this fuel, which is here mentioned as a curiosity, has become an article of general use, and is one of the greatest sources of wealth to this country. Mr. Wright, in his work entitled The Celt, the Roman, and the Saxon, p. 233, has the following interesting remark on this subject :—” The Romans were more attentive to the utility of the mineral productions of the island than we are accustomed to suppose. There cannot be a doubt that they knew the use of mineral coals, and that they employed them; but they only obtained them where the coal bed was near the surface, and the coal was probably burnt chiefly in the district where it was found. Mineral coal bas been supposed to be referred to by Solinus, when he tells us that Minerva was the patron of the warm springs in Britain, alluding, apparently, to Bath; and that the fire that burnt on her altars did not fall into white ashes, hut, as the fire wasted away, it turned into stony balls.

Where a very interesting villa was discovered, In 1838, In making the railroad between Bath and Bristol, a notice of which was published by Mr. Goodridge, in the Bath, and Cheltenham Gazette, of June 9th, for that year. The tesslalated pavement there found, is now In the Station, at Keynsham. Of this villa a more detailed account has been published by the Rev. W. L. Nichols, together with a Poem, entitled” Horæ Romanæ,” with accompanying notes.

A more unequivocal proof of the use of this fuel fs furnished by the fact, that cinders of mineral coal bave not unfrequently been found in the fire-places of Roman houses, and villas in different parts of the island. Mr. Bruce assures us that, in nearly all the stations on the line of the wall of Hadrian, ‘the ashes of mineral fuel have been found; in some a store of unconsumed coal has been met with, which, though intended to give warmth to the primeval occupants of the isthmus, has been burnt in the grates Of the modern English. In several places the source whence the mineral was procured can be pointed out.'” It is a remarkable fact, that the “tombstone” of a priest of the Goddess Sul should remain to us. A monumental tablet to a “priest of the Goddess Sul,” erected by his wife, was dug up in Sydney Gardens, and is now in the Literary Institution. He died an old man, at the age of 75. We learn an important fact from this relique, that the Goddess “Sul-Miverva” was not like the Goddess Vesta, at Rome, attended by virgins only, and seen only by . the head virgin, but waited upon by married men. We have also still preserved to us the altar which, in all probability, stood in the centre of this  Temple, and contained the pan in which the fire was placed which hurned continually. The shape is different from that of the other altars, and the space at the top sufficient to admit a flat pan. It is of very rude workmanship, and was probably often obliged to be renewed, on account of the fire causing the stone to crack.

“The inscription on the frieze of the portico of the Temple of Sul-Minerva,” says Mr. Lysons, ” does not seem, from the character of the letters, to have been of a date later than the middle of the third century. It relates that Claudius Ligur restored the Temple, which had fallen to decay through extreme age, having dug up a pitcher of money.” If, therefore, the Temple had not been erected as early as is above supposed, it could not, with any propriety, have been mentioned in the inscription as fallen to decay by its great age.

We learn from the Roman Historian, Tacitus, that Agri-cola, who was’ sent into Britain by Vespasian, in order to soften the warlike disposition of the Britons, exhorted them to build temples, courts of justice, and houses, and that, by degrees, they adopted the Roman luxuries of porticoes, baths, and sumptuous banquets (Tac. Agric. 21). This happened during the reign of the Emperor Titus, and “I cannot but think it extremely probable (says Mr. Lysons) that the Temple of Minerva, at Bath, was originally built about that time. The three columns in the Campo Vaccino, at Rome, the capitals of which resemble that found at Bath, in its most remarkable peculiarities, have commonly been referred to the same period.” “Another circumstance, which gives additional weight to this conjecture is, that the colossal head, of Bath
stone, found near the same place, about a century ago, and which may reasonably be supposed to have belonged to a statue erected by the Romans, appears, from the head-dress, to be of as early a date as the reign of Domitian. This head was formerly in the possession of Dr. Musgrave, and is engraved in his ‘Belgium Britannicum.’ The head-dress resembles that of Julia, tlte daughter of Titus, more than of any other Roman Empress.”

Dr. Stukeley, speaking of this antique fragment, says, “I saw the head of the Empress Julia Domna dug up near Bath. The head-dress is like that of her times, and her bust at Wilton. It is the noblest relique of British antiquity, of this sort, which is known. It belonged to a statue of 12 feet proportion, set upon some temple, or pedestal, originally. Mr. Lysons observes, “that the Dr. must have meant Julia, the daughter of Titus, the wife of Domitian, as the head-dress does
not at all resemble that of Julia Domna, the wife of Severus.”

I may here remark, that it is a serious loss to our collection in this city, that a monument so valuable should have been suffered to go out of it. This, I fear, is one of the many instances where historical records of the highest value have found their way into other collections, instead of being preserved, as ‘ they surely ought to have been, in the city. And it is greatly to be feared that such will still be the case until a suitable repository be found for them, and a spirit of interest in their value be revived.

I must now, however, return to the portico of the Temple of Minerva, which is preserved in the vestibule of the Literary Institution, and a drawing of which is beautifully engraved in Mr. Lyson’s elegant illustrations. TheÆgis of Minerva in the centre, appears to us to be coarsely executed, because viewed too near, which would not be the case if seen at its proper elevation. It may, however, be one of those portions of the building repaired, as the inscription on the freize informs us, when fallen to decay by its great age. With respect to the inscription on the freize of the portico, the first part of which remains is the proper name, “Claudius Ligur.” After an hiatus, or space, follows part of a word, “OLEGIO,” which, no doubt, was COLEGIO, and related to one of the Collegia, or Societies of Artificers, established by the Romans in this island, under the direction of one of which this building was repaired.

A funereal monument, discovered in Bath, will throw much light upon this Society.

There is now preserved, in the passage of the Literary Institution, a large slab, with the following inscription engraven in clear letters upon it:—

IVLIVS . VITA          Julius. Vitalis
LIS.FABRICIES        Fabriciesis
IS.LEG.XX.V.V         Leg. XX. V.V
STIPEDIOR               Stipendiorum IX
lX.NATIONE.BE       Natione. Belga.
LGA.EX.COLEGO     Ex. Colegio
FABRICE. E LA TV   Fabrice. Elatus
S.H.S.E                         Hic. Situs Est.

It is to the memory of Julius Vitalis, a smith, or armorer, of the twentieth legion, called Valeriana, and Victrix. He was a native of Belgic Britain, and died at the age of 29, having served nine years, and was buried by the Company ofSmiths. The legions had their particular” fabri,” or smiths, who were employed in preparing arms and military instruments for the soldiery; and, besides these, there were others in their towns. Their workhouse was called Fabrica, and the “Collegium Fabricœ,” or “Fabricensium,” was the company, or body of artificers.

Bath was in the country of the Belgre, and Julius Vatalis appears to have been a native in this employment. This stone remained, for many years, in the wall at the east end of the Abbey Church. It was originally discovered October, 1708, by the side of the London road, Walcot, with two urns -the one large, the other small—containing ashes. None of the inscriptions preserved have engaged so much attention as this. Dr. Horsley has a long commentary on it.

From this stone, we learn that there was a College of Smiths, or Armourers, in this city; and it was by one of these that the Temple situated formerly on the western half of the Pump Room was rebuilt or restored. Let us see, now, how this restoration was accomplished. It seems that it was through the discovery of a pitcher of coins by Claudius Ligur, who devoted what he had dug up to this purpose,—a holy purpose, no doubt, in the mind of the pious Briton, who could not bear to see the Temple of that Goddess, from whom he believed the healing springs of Bath to derive all their virtue, to go to ruins; but when he had accidentally found the means, devoted them to this object. Happy would it be for Christians, if they who have a TRUE GOD to worship, not a fabulous deity, would devote a portion of what they may receive by apparent accident, but really by the working of divine providence, to the honour and glory of God, and the good of their fellow men!

But this is not the only instance of the piety and devotion of the Romanized Briton, or the Roman himself. We have several votive altars, erected as thank offerings for the benefit derived from the use of the Bath waters, shewing their great efficacy even at that time. Before, however, going to the altars placed in the Temples, we must endeavour to do justice to the Temples themselves.

On each side of the Ægis of Minerva, there appears to have been a figure of winged Victory bestriding the globe. On one side the figure of the globe remains, and the foot of Victory upon it. On the other side a portion of the wing remains. This was a favourite subject with the Romans. There is a very perfect figure of this emblem engraved in “Bruce’s Roman Wall,” from a stone discovered along the line of the Vallum of Hadrian, which extended between Newcastle and Carlisle. Below the gorgon’s head, on the front of the temple, and just without the circuit of oak leaves and acorns which compasses the shield, is the figure of an owl, which a hand holds by the wing. This was an invariable emblem attached to the Temple of Minerva; the owl being the peculiar token of that deity. The winged figure of Victory appears to have supported the Ægis. There is also a helmet in the lower portion, which is appropriate to the Goddess in  her character of Pallas. The form of the Temple seems to have been similar to that of “Minerva Medica,” at Rome, a rotunda, having—as appears from the remains still existing—a portico in front.

In order that we may understand the figure of this Temple, we must consider the form of that which remains still at Rome. “In the Pantheon,” says Mr. Whitaker, in his review of Warner’s History of Bath, “the only one of the round temples remaining at present, are seven niches, or chapels, the entrance into everyone of which is ornamented by two pilastres, Corinthian and fluted. Opposite the entrance gate is the niche for the great altar, as in the other parts of the circle, to the right and left, are niches for the other altars. The central niche was reserved for Jupiter, as the side niches were for Mars, Venus, Julius Cresar, and other deities. In the same manner, we believe, was the temple at Bath disposed within, only what were statues at Rome, shrunk up into mere altars at Bath. In the common niches were lodged the altars of Jupiter Cetius, Mars, and Nemetona, three deities honoured by one altar only. The altars to Jove and Hercules, honoured together upon one; and to Sulinis, in the greatest niche of all.” On some future occasion we may hope to consider these altars and the inscriptions on them. We will now proceed to the statue of the Goddess, which is supposed to have been placed in this Temple. We have, in the library of the Literary Institution, a splendid bronze head, which has formerly been gilded, the traces of the gold still remaining. This is one of the most interesting and valuable of the Roman remains which have been discovered in this country. It belongs to the Corporation, as do also all the Roman remains deposited in the Literary and Scientific Institution. This relique was dug up the month of July, 1727, in Stall street, near the corner of Bell Tree lane, where it lay buried sixteen feet under the surface of the ground. It appears to have been cast in a mould: the form of it is very fine, and the  features truly Minerva’s. “This Military Goddess,” says Mr. Whitaker, “has been expected, by some, to be like Venus, the mere Goddess of Smiles and Loves. She is a Goddess very different, having a helmet on her head, wielding a javelin in her hand, even carrying a gorgon’s head upon her breast-plate, and thus mixing in the fight with men. So acting, she must, of necessity, shew a manliness and muscularity in the face.” With this head were found, at the same time, several Roman coins, which were preserved, when
Mr. Horsley visited Bath, 1730, in a box in the Town Hall. Unhappily, the box and the coins are now no longer forthcoming. They were of Marcus Aurelius, Maximinus, Maximilian, Dioclesian, Constantine, and other Emperors. Aurelius appears to have been the earliest Emperor acknowledged in these coins; and Whitaker, therefore, supposes the erection of the statue to date sometime between the years A. D. 163 and 181.

I must now pass to the remains of another temple, which  stood not far from the one just described, but which are of smaller dimensions. These remains are also in the Literary Institution, and placed opposite to the pediment of Minerva’s Temple, which has the gorgon’s head. In excavating the ground for the foundation of the present Pump Room, in 1790, there was found an oblong stone, with an inscription on it, which, by filling up the letters wanting in the fragment, may be read,
” Caius Protacius restored the Temple of the Goddess Sul-Minerva;” or, it may be, was Priest, as either form of expression, ÆDEM RESTITVIT, or 8ACERDOS, must be supplied. Many other fragments were found at the same time, which did not appear to belong to the Great Temple, but to some smaller edifice which stood near it. Out of these fragments Mr. Lysons has composed the principal front of a small temple, and he places the inscription over the door.

The fragments which remain consist of the face and head of a figure, encircled in a crescent, having beside it a wand, round which is a serpent; the lower portion is covered with drapery. The remains of four cupids, or genii, representing the four seasons of the year, were also found, together with pilasters, fluted and cabled. All these are beautifully engraved by Mr. Lys0ns. He says, “the figures of genii, in bas relief, within shallow niches, unquestionably represent the ‘four seasons of the year.”’ Spring has flowers in his right hand; Summer has an ear of corn. These two are naked, and have a loose cloak fastened to their shoulders. Of the figure representing Autumn, little more than the right hand and arm still remain, holding a bunch of grapes. This figure is winged. Of the figure of Winter, nothing remains but the right hand, arm, and shoulder, and the wing attached to the latter. He holds a bill-hook, and appears to have been clothed. The seasons, with similar attributes, are to be seen on the arch of 8everus, at Rome. It may be that the device here was imitated by some humble hand in Britain. If this be so, it would help us towards fixing the date of this temple, prior to A. D. 193.

Here we have preserved to our times the remnants of two temples, monuments of heathen idolatry-records of what once prevailed in this land I They carry our minds back to ages when this country was under the dominion of Pagan superstition, and when men were bowing down to worship false gods or devils. The contemplation of such records, which have, doubtless, for some wise purpose been preserved to our times, should make us thankful for the privileges which we enjoy as a Christian people, and remind us how much we owe to the mercy of God in calling us out of darkness, and giving us the clear light of revelation. It is a curious fact, and well worthy of remembrance, that the wife of Aulus Plautius, one of the Generals of Claudius, who conquered a portion of this island, about the years 45 and 46 after Christ, is mentioned as the first Christian. Tacitus describes her as professing a foreign superstition, but as an excellent and exemplary lady: and we cannot forget that to the Roman invasion of this island, we probably owe the blessing of the first propagation of Christian truth.

Camden has the following observations respecting this subject :—” The yoke of the Romans, although it were grievous to the Britains, yet comfortable it proved, and a saving health unto them, for the healthsome light of Jesus Christ shone withal upon the Britains, and the brightness of that most glorious empire chased away all savage barbarism from the Britains’ minds, like as from other nations which it had subdued; for to say nothing of the rest of the provinces, the Romans having brought over colonies hither, and reduced the natural inhabitants of the island unto the society of civil life, by training them up in the liberal arts, and by sending them into Gaul for to learn perfectly the laws of the Romans, governed them with their laws, and framed them to good manners and behaviour.” Page 83.

Thus, if the Britons were sometimes cruelly oppressed—as we know they were—and had to endure the exactions not only of the Military Governor, but of the civil officers as well, s0 that they very justly complained of suffering both in their persons and their goods; yet did they derive greater advantages from their Roman masters, who were the first to pave the way for that civilization which we, by the blessing of God, now enjoy, and to kindle the light of Christian truth in the land.

It will be right to say a word now about the site of these temples, and the position of the Roman town of ” Aquæ Solis.”

The remains of these temples were discovered, as I before stated, on the site of the present Pump Room, towards the western half of it. Stall street appears to be the most ancient part of the town; and the Roman houses appear to have run along the course of the Roman road, which, entering the city from Walcot and Batheaston, passed along to Stall street, and on to the river crossing it somewhere near the present bridge at the bottom of Southgate street, and continued on up Holloway. The principal houses and buildings appear to have been near Stall street. The building which has commonly been considered as the ancient Roman Baths, but which has also been, by Mr. Whitaker,* conjectured to have been the Pretorium, or residence of the Roman Commandant, was a little to one side of it, on the west, i. e., on the site of the old Abbey house and garden, where now stand the Kingston Baths, and the Office of the Board of Guardians.

Before we pass to the consideration of this very interesting remain, it may be well to say a few words respecting Stulrs Church, the situation of which seems to have been very near the site of the Temple of Minerva. In fact, antiquarians have considered that there was evidence of the fact of Stall’s Church being only the temple adapted to Christian uses.

See Anti-JIIC., vol. x., p. 116. October, 1801.

The remains of the temple were, however, found under the northern half of the Pump Room, and Stall’s Church stood at the other end of the portico, nearer to the angle formed by Cheap street and Stall street. The grounds for supposing that the temple continued until very late, and was adapted to the purposes of a Christian Church, are the following:—There is a curious document still extant, a MS. in vellum, belonging to the Marquis of Bath, which appears to have
been written at various times, the oldest writing being of the 14th century. This is the old leger book of the Bath Abbey. carried off in the pillage of the monastery at the Reformation. The book records an epitaph, inscribed on the right hand, “In ostio ruinosi Templi, quondam, Minervæ dedicati et adhuc in loco dicto, sese studiosis offerens,” 1582,7° Decemb. in civit. Bathon. “The Temple of Minerva,” says Whitaker ( Anti-Jacooin Review, vol. x., p. 35), “is thus recorded to have continied, though in a ruinous state, as late as A. D. 1582, to have been known as the Temple formerly dedicated to Minerva, to have had its portal still kept up, and to have had a long epitaph still inscribed upon the right side of it.” In the oldest map which we have of Bath, dated A. D. 1572, ten years before the above record was written, “Staules Church” is noted at the northern end of “Staules street,” at the angle between that and Cheap street, having an open churchyard, which extends to the King’s Bath. The crypt, or under croft, of Stall’s Church, still remains, and is now converted into a wine store, in the occupation of Messrs. Arnold. Below the crypt is a further opening, which seems to have been a vault for the purpose of interment. The masonry is excellent, but it is difficult to infer the date of it. Stall’s Church (as Mr. Warner observes) was one of the most ancient religious edifices in the city of Bath, and continued a rectory till A. D. 1263, under the title of “St. Mary de Stall,” when it was appropriated to the monks of Bath. The name of ” Stall’s Church” is most probably derived from its dedication to St. Mary de Stall, i. e., the Virgin at the Manger, not, as Mr. Whitaker supposes, from the niches or stalls in the temple; and the street took its name from the Church. Before leaving the subject of the Temple of Minerva, I must mention an altar, or cippus, which is now in the passage of the Literary Institution, and which was discovered at the lower end of Stall street, A. D. 1783. The inscription is curious, as it mentions the restoration by Caius Severus, a centurion, who had either the additional name of ” Emeritus,” or was “discharged” from his legion; of some place which had been consecrated to religious purposes, but which had fallen to decay. This decay had been produced “per insolentiam,” which may mean “disuse;” but the word “erutum,” “overthrown,” follows in the inscription, which leads us to believe the decay to have been accomplished rather by “violence” than “disuse,” and hence “insolentiam” may relate to some outbreak of pious zeal on the part of the Christian inhabitants of Bath against the idolatry of their neighbours. If this is the case, as Mr. Whitaker supposes, we have a curious monument of the contests between Christianity and paganism during the early period of the Christian dispensation.

It would take too long to dwell upon the many altars which have been found, and their inscriptions. These often express the gratitude of Romans who had been restored to health-it may be by the use of the waters-and who erected their votive altars in grateful remembrance of the benefit conferred: an example to be imitated by every Christian who has higher motives, and more worthy objects on which to bestow his bounty. Our Hospitals and charities are, however, noble monuments of Christian piety, far surpassing any which heathen antiquity can boast, and which Christian gratitudeshould support with all that bountiful liberality that their excellence deserves.

The Old Roman Baths, as they are generally called, or as they are conjectured, by Mr. Whitaker, to have been the palace of the Roman Commander, have been already mentioned. The site is now partly occupied by the building forming the Union Office, and partly by the Kingston Baths. Under the Kingston Baths, the remains of the Roman building is still to be seen, but is at present, I much regret to say, for certain reasons, inaccessible. A plan of these buildings has been published by Mr. Warner, in his History of Bath, and in The History of Somersetshire, and in other works, as Gough’s Camden. It has been well described in Colinson’s History of Somersetshire, and copied from him into other writers. In this building the ancient floors, walls, flues, and furnaces were distinctly visible. It is to be hoped that what still remains of it may, some day, be brought to light, and the remnant of this once spacious and noble edifice carefully preserved.

We ought now to mention the walls of the Roman city. The ancient city walls, which Leland has described as existing in his time (the reign of Henry VIII.), and a few traces of which still remain, are supposed to have been built upon the foundation of the old Roman walls.  Governor Pownall has informed us of what he had an opportunity of examining in his time. He says that “Some houses were building in January, 1795, on the site of the Borough walls, opposite the Hospital. The workman, digging out a space on the inward side of these walls, to make an area, after they had dug down ten or eleven feet, and laid bare the masonry of the foundation of the Borough walls, came to the foundation of the old Roman walls, on which they were set. I went down” says he, “this excavation, and examined the different construction of them (i. e., the Borough walls), and of the Roman foundations. The old construction, upon which the more modern walls were set, is of a compact consistency, harder than any stone of this country; the workmen could not break it without sledge-hammers and wedges. The breadth which I measured is 15 feet; it is set off wider below, but to what breadth or depth that may go, I had not the means of examining.” Upon comparing his own examination with that of a builder, who had opened the ground down to these Roman foundations in another place, at the N. W. corner of the the town, the Governor says, “I venture to state the construction of these foundations are of that sort which Vitruvius calls” diamicton.” The front faces, or outer’ coats of the wall, were constructed of large blocks of hard grit stone, of various thickness. When I was told that some of them were supposed to be of two tons weight, I observed that they were placed at the corner, or angle of the wall, where more strength was required. The interior of this wall, formed thus into a kind of caisson, was filled up with rubbish, stone, and liquid lime, or cement, which, in time, hardened into the rocky consistency which this part is found to be of. The workmen could easily separate and take away the outward face, which they did, and used in their works; but the breaking up of the cemented rocky part was a work of too much labour and expense to be of practicable use. I enquired if there were any cross binding courses. The answer was, No; but that the unequal thickness of the facing stones, running into the interior part, operated as clamps.”

In the Borough walls standing upon this Roman work, were anciently built in several very curious reliques of Roman sculpture, which were seen by Leland, and are described by him in his Itinerary. I cannot draw this lecture to a close without giving the account in his own words:—
“There be divers notable antiquities engraved in stone (says he) that yet be sene yn the walles of Bathe, betwixt the South gate and the Weste gate: and agayn betwixt the Weste gate and the North gate. The first was an antique head of a man, made al fiat, and having great lokkes of here, as I have in a coin of C. Antius. The secunde that I did see bytwene the South and the North gate was an image, as I took it, of Hercules!* for he held in each hand a serpent. Then I saw the image of a foote man, ‘Vibrato gladio’ et ” prætenso clypeo.’ Then I saw a braunch with leves foldid and wrethin with circles.

• Mentioned, also, by Camden.

Then I saw two nakid imagis lying along, the one embracing the other. Then I saw two antique heddes with heere as rofelid yu lokkes. Then I saw a grey-hound as running, and at the taile of hym was a stone engravin with great Roman letters, but I could pike no sentence out of it. Then I saw another inscription, but the weather hath, except a few letters, clere defacid. Then I saw, toward the West gate, an image of a man embracid with 2 serpentes. I took it for Laocoon.* Betwixt the West and North gate I saw 2 inscriptions, of which sum wordes were evident to the reader, the residue clene defacid. Then I saw the image of a nakid man. Then I saw a stone having cupidines et labruscas intercurrentes. Then I saw a table, having at eche end an image, vivid and flourished above and beneth. In this table was an inscription of a tum be, or burial, wherin I saw playnly these words: ‘Vixit annos xxx.’ This inscription was metely hole, but very diffusely written, as letters for hole wordes, and 2 or 3 letters conveyed in one. Then I saw 2 images, whereof one was of a nakid manne, grasping a serpent in eche hand, as I took it; and this image was not far from the North gate. Such antiquities as were in the waulles, from the North gate to the Est, and from the Est gate to the South, hath bene defacid by the building of
the monastry, and making new waulles. I much doubte (sa’ys Leland) wither these antique workes were set in the tyme of the Romans’ dominion in Britayne in the waulles of Bath as they now stand, or wither they were gatherid of old ruines ther, and sins set up in the waulles re-edified in testimony of the antiquitie of the town.” Doubtless the latter, as we have seen by the different construction of the more modern walls to that of the ancient Roman work. It is greatly to be regretted that these interesting reliques of Roman art are now entirely lost—not a stone remains; whatever we now possess has been found since Leland wrote; and had not a taste for preserving the remains of antiquity been kindled amongst us, these must have shared the same fate.

Camden calls it a figure of Hereules, Ophiuchus, or Esculapius.

Yet how valuable do the few records which remain become to us as monuments of past history, and memorials of ancient art! Should we not preserve them with great reverence? It is earnestly to be hoped, that whatever changes may come over our city, there will never be wanting the spirit of love for antiquity, which leads the citizens to care for their monuments—monuments which attest that this city is not of yesterday, but that it had its rank among the civilized nations of the earth near 1800 years ago; and that the arts were then cultivated, and the refinements of life were then valued; and the foundation was early laid for that prosperity which has shone out so conspicuously in modern times.

Dr. Horsley, in the preface to his Britania Romana, has the following observations on the Sculptures of Bath. They appear in former times to have met with very sad treatment, and to have been little esteemed-this shews the great need of a local Museum. He says, “Some of the Sculptures at Bath, which are entirely defaced, I have chosen rather to omit than give them either from others’ imaginations or my own. . . . . . The funeral bust goes by the name of Lady Mog, and has been severely battered with stones by the children. Besides those which are engraven, there was also another human figure, which seemed to hold somewhat in its hand too large for a corona, and more like a hoop.”

” I remember,” says Mr. Addison, “to have seen an antique statue of Time, at Rome, with a wheel, or a hoop of marble, in his hand.”

As far as I can ascertain, both Lady Mog, and the other figure, have entirely perished; and we are left to conjecture what these interesting reliques of ancient art were. We hope that no more Roman remains will ever again share the fate of Lady Mog, and be left as a mark for mischievous children!

While the Literary Institution is indebted to the Corporation for increasing its interest and embellishment, by depositing there so many valuable and interesting reliques of Roman history, the Corporation are no less indebted to the Institu-tion for the care that has been taken of these remains, and for the method and order with which they have been arranged. They are open to the public for inspection, at all reasonable hours, without any charge; and it is much to be wished that an enlightened public would avail themselves of the opportunities afforded them of access to these monuments.

From the observations of Dr. Horsley, we may form some idea of the’ruthlessness with which many valuable monuments have been destroyed. No care has been taken to collect and arrange the coins which have been found in and around Bath, of which there are a great many. There are, indeed, some in the collection at the Literary Institution, but more are in private hands; many have been lost (as we have noticed of the box which Dr. Horsley mentions having examined a century ago, and which was then in the Town Hall), and more have been carried away from Bath. If, however, those which still remain in private hands could be brought together and arranged, much light might be thrown upon history.

Of the valuable memorials now no longer existing, I may mention the following, which, though mentioned by writers on antiquities, have now disappeared :—A sepulchral altar to SVCCIA PETRONIA, that of C. MVRRIVS, that of M. V ALERIVS, and that of a Gloucestershire Octogenarian; all described by Dr. Horsley. Where is that dug up at the Bell, in Walcot, inscribed VIBIA IVCVNDA AN XXX. H. S. E., which was in the possession of Alderman John Parker, a century or more ago; who had also the Red Book of Bath, a curious historical document, which has likewise passed away from the city?

A bronze sword was found, four or five years ago, at the Gasometer. It is now in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland. Surely such a relique as this ought to have been in our local Museum! I have mentioned the head which was sent to Dr. Musgrave, as among the lost reliques. What has become of the medicine stamp found in Bath in 1781? This was a curiosity well worthy preservation: it betokened that even then Bath was not without celebrity for that high medical skill which it still retains. But it is now nowhere to be found; and so, it is to be feared, have fared other curiosities. The published catalogue of the Somersetshire Archæological and Natural History Society, for 185I, specifies a bronze head of Diana, dug up in Bath a century ago; and a bronze cupid. The former may be only a copy of our splendid specimen here. A very handsome statue, in marble, of Minerva, said to have been dug up in Bath, is now in the possession of Messrs. Rainey. It ought not to pass out of the city, if its authenticity can be established.

Thus, there is no doubt, that many very interesting monuments of art have been carried out of the town, for want of a fund to purchase what has been discovered which was rare and valuable. The remains of antiquity, in their present position, are hardly set off to that advantage which they deserve, and which can create that interest which they merit. They require more space, and more light, and somewhat more of convenience for the inspection of them. This might easily be effected at a moderate outlay; and if spirited inhabitants could be found to contribute their share towards increased space, and a re-arrangement, we might, eventually, place our collection on a par with others which have less title to notice.

If this account of but a portion of the interesting remains of Roman antiquity found in this city, should have kindled in any a desire to search out their value, or awakened an interest in the history of former ages,—if it shall have led any to value more this city and its advantages, and to take delight in its resources, and taught them how to employ, profitably, a leisure moment,—above all, if it shall have led them to contrast their own favoured condition with that of the men of past ages, who lived in ignorance of the great truths of divine revelation, it will not be a wasted hour which has been spent upon the Roman Antiquities of Bath.

Printed by R. E. PEACH (Pocock’s Library), Bridge Street, Bath.

Click here to read more about the author, Rev. H.M. Scarth, M.A., Rector of Bathwick


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Because its blessings are abused, Must gold be censure, cursed, accused? E’en virtue’s self by knaves is made, A cloak to carry on the trade.

— Gay