Roman bath review (Oct 2015)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
Before you get too excited... it's not really a Roman bath. It might not even be a bath, but that's what people call it (that's what they used to think it was). These days the experts have deduced that it's probably a 17th-century plunge pool for Arundel House... or a 17th-century water cistern... or part of a garden feature... or maybe a few other things... so basically they haven't got a clue. The only thing that they can definitely agree on is that it's not a Roman bath. That doesn't mean that we're going to stop calling it one though.
The really interesting thing about this place is not what it is, or how old it is, but how you find it. Because there is absolutely no way in the world that you can stumble upon this place by accident — somebody has to tell you it is there so you can seek it out and find it (it's fun!).
The easiest way to locate it is by going down Surrey Street, which cuts between Temple Place and the Strand. Halfway along there is an entrance into Surrey Steps -- look for a very fine-looking archway in that red brick building (it's not a road, it's just a dark alley through an arch).
Once you actually get there then the excitement is all but over, because the remains themselves are nothing special (especially when you remember that they're not even Roman). You just stare through a big window into a basement, where you can just about make out a brick-lined hole in the floor. There is a push button light on the wall if it's too dark. The window was dripping in condensation when I went today, so I could hardly see anything.
If you fancy going on another little archaeological adventure after that, then head back out onto the Strand, walk to the right for five minutes, past the Royal Courts of Justice into Fleet Street, and turn right when you find a place called Bouverie Street. Halfway along that road is a turning called Magpie Alley. Walk through there and down the gated steps at the end (don't worry, you are allowed), and you will find some more secret bricks that hardly anyone knows about. These are the remains of a 14th-century crypt at Whitefriars Monastery.
Henry VIII demolished it during the Reformation, and we buried the rest underneath a law firm, or a financial firm (something like that -- they all all wearing suits through the window). But it's still an interesting little find, don't you think? London is full of interesting little remains like this.
I’ve been here before…
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