On Wednesday 18th March, the East Oxford Community Classics Centre ran a trip for Year 8 and Year 9 Cheney School classics students and Year 6 Bayards Hill Primary School students to see the Roman Baths in the beautiful city of Bath.
The drive through the rolling hills was enjoyed by everyone and we were dropped a few minutes' walk from the Baths themselves. In the morning, the groups were split into two to take part in workshops run by Museum education officers. The Cheney group discovered that the city was called "Aquae Sulis" by the Romans, which means "Waters of Sulis" (Sulis was Celtic goddess associated with the hot springs there). They also found out about the geothermic process by which the spring water was heated to temperatures of 46 degrees, and how the original spring water had fallen on the Mendip Hills thousands of years ago. They handled Roman artefacts found at the Baths, such as hair-pins, strigils (for scraping oil) and perfume bottles, as well as roof tiles from the original structure.
In the afternoon, both groups were able to enjoy a self-guided tour around the Museum with audio guides. They were able to walk through the Baths, seeing them at street level, before descending into the Temple of Sulis Minerva, the joint Romano-Celtic goddess who was worshiped there, seeing the layout of the Roman Baths and the hypocaust (under-floor heating) system, and standing next to the waters. Steam vapours wafted up from the surface and little bubbles were constantly rising. At the end of the tour, everyone had the chance to drink the spring waters, but most found it a rather too metallic taste for their liking!
It was a really fascinating day and we are very grateful to Museum staff for their lively and informative workshops.