The Sacred Spring lies at the very heart of the ancient monument. Many of the offerings that were thrown into the Spring throughout the Roman period can be seen in the museum collection today.
The Spring rises within the courtyard of the Temple of Sulis Minerva and water from it feeds the Roman Baths. An earthen bank projecting into the Spring suggests it was already a focal point for worship before the Roman temple and baths were built. Roman engineers surrounded the spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead, on a foundation of oak piles.
At first this reservoir formed an open pool in a corner of the Temple courtyard but in the 2nd century AD it was enclosed within a barrel vaulted, dimly lit building with statues and columns around, enhancing the aura of mystery. Offerings were thrown into the Spring throughout the Roman period. Eventually the vaulted building collapsed into the Spring itself, most likely in the 6th or 7th century. The oak piles that sunk into the mud two thousand years ago continue to provide a stable foundation today.
The King’s Bath was built, using the lower walls of the Roman Spring building as foundations, in the 12th century. The bath provided niches for bathers to sit in, immersed up to their necks in water. On the south side of the bath is a seat known as the Master of the Baths chair, that was donated in the 17th century.
Although modified and encroached upon by the building of the Grand Pump Room in the 18th century and subsequent 19th century developments, the King’s Bath continued in use for curative bathing until the middle of the 20th century. The bath is overlooked by a statue of King Bladud, the mythical discoverer of the hot waters and founder of the City of Bath.
The Roman drain
The great Roman drain carries water from the Spring and the Great Bath to the River Avon. It is large enough to walk down and still performs its original purpose. It is joined by a channel that drains the eastern range of the baths and was lined with wooden boards which are still there today. Some important finds have been made in the drain including a group of 34 gemstones and a mysterious tin mask.