Truckle Bath House (awarded 2010-11)

A grant provided by The Roman Research Trust has enabled the production of a final report on the 2007-11 excavations on a detached bath-house and two earlier Roman buildings (interpreted as nymphaeums) at Truckle Hill, North Wraxall, Wiltshire.

At the site, the sequence of buildings and a late Roman crop-drier is unusual, certainly of regional significance, and was associated with the North Wraxall villa, excavated in the mid-nineteenth century, which lies a short distance to the south.

Excavation in 2007 initially focussed on the bath-house, thought to be the only structure on the site. This revealed a substantial and relatively well preserved building standing up to 1.5m high, buried beneath hillwash on the steeply sloping valley side, approximately 100 m from the villa. The complete suite of rooms were uncovered, of two phases, with initial construction probably taking place during the second century AD, most likely towards the end of that century (period 3). The use of the bath-house continued until the end of the third or, possibly, the early fourth century AD. The phase 1 frigidarium / cold bath was particularly deep, a plunge pool rather than a bath, and there is a possibility that the new, phase 2 frigidarium / cold bath remained unfinished at the time the bath-house ceased operation. Subsequently, a crop-drier (period 4) was constructed within the shell of the abandoned building.

However, the unexpected discovery of two earlier buildings beneath the bath-house in 2008 led to further excavations and it is the results of these which form the principal focus of the Roman Research Trust funded analysis, research and publication programme. Although very few finds were recovered, the two earlier buildings are thought to have spanned the late first/early second – late second/early third centuries AD, with their layout, decoration and secluded location suggesting that both were temples or more precisely nymphaea, which take their place amongst the various water cults which probably existed in the area.

The approach adopted has been to select sites which promise to provide relevant data and to sample them in contiguous area excavations having first undertaken a thorough geophysical survey. The sites examined include the villa establishments of Houghton Down (1997), Grateley South (1998, 1999), Fullerton (2000, 2001) and Thruxton (2002). It is planned to examine the native settlement of Flint Farm in 2003.