Roman hypocaust and mosaics
When excavating under cellars of shops destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, archaeologists discovered parts of a very large Roman town house. It had costly features – a ‘hypocaust’ under-floor heating system, floor mosaics and wall paintings. Built about AD 70, the house was rebuilt and extended over 300 years until about AD 350, when it stopped being lived in.
You can see the remains of the Roman ‘hypocaust’ or under-floor heating system. There are stacks of tiles, which originally supported the floor of a room in the Roman town house. Hot air from a wood-burning furnace outside the house would have been drawn under the floor and flowed between the stacks. The hot air was also channelled up wall flues (like ones on display with Roman building materials) and out at roof level.
A plain-coloured stone mosaic corridor leads to another with patterned mosaic insets. [link mosaic insets to Roman mosaics page from Highlights] The patterned corridor led to a suite of baths, which could not be preserved. The mosaic floor is exactly as found by the archaeologists. It was originally flat: the undulating surface visitors now see has been caused by earth movements over the centuries.
Roman hypocaust underfloor heating, Canterbury Roman Museum © Canterbury Museums and Galleries