Bearsden Roman Bath House, Scotland

This evening, I am focusing on the Roman Bath-House at Bearsden, about six miles north of  Glasgow. This was discovered as recently as 1973.

This structure was an annexe attached to the Roman Fort in turn one of possibly twenty six such forts  forming an integral part of the Antonine Wall which was commissioned in 142 AD by the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. For approximately twenty years the Antonine Wall was a military zone which formed the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.

Key facts concerning the Roman Fort at Bearsden:

  • Attached to the rear of the Wall and was made of turf on a stone base.
  • The complex included barrack blocks, stables, storehouses, workshop and granaries.
  • Was of modest size compared to some other forts and was maybe the base for just a detachment of troops, possibly from the Fourth Cohort of Gauls, a mixed cavalry and infantry unit.

Key facts concerning the Bath-House:

  • Built of timber and stone. Latter material used for the heated rooms to minimise the risk of fire.
  • The walls were plastered on the inside with roof of thatch or shingle. Latrines were thatched.
  • The bather would enter a timber changing room then continue into a cold room from where he could move into a hot, dry room (caldarium) or continue into a steam range. The floor of the hot room was heated to such a temperature that sandals would be needed. The steam range contained three rooms of increasing warmth which were heated by hot air ducts under the raised floors.
  • Passing through the various stages was a relaxed and quasi social event during which oils and a scraper (strigil) would be used to clean the skin.
  • Finally, the bather would avail of a cold dip in the frigidarium before dressing and returning to duty.

Overall, the bathing process is very similar to a modern-day Turkish Bath.

Video clip of the baths

Roman Bath House at Bearsden, Scotland

Roman Bath House at Bearsden, Scotland

Roman Bath House at Bearsden, Scotland

Foundation of Antonine Wall at New Kilpatrick Cemetery, Bearsden

The site is easily accessible, being close to Roman Road in Bearsden.

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