Part of Roman baths cistern


This remarkable piece of Roman technology survives from the ‘piscina’ or open-air pool built in the ‘palaestra’, or exercise yard, of the Roman public baths in Canterbury.

Parts of the Roman baths were uncovered during excavations in St Margaret’s Street, under shop cellars and beneath the church, in advance of building the Marlowe shopping arcade. There were separate hot, warm and cold rooms, and hot and cold baths in a range of spaces richly decorated with marble, painted wall plaster, and mosaic floors. Wood-burning furnaces channelled hot air underneath the floors to heat the rooms and baths. You can see some of the remains in the basement of Waterstone’s bookshop in St Margaret’s Street.

The cistern and water-outlet pipe were made of sheet lead 2cm thick. The pipe was beaten into shape and the join soldered with molten lead, then fixed with iron staples onto the faceplate that was immersed in the pool. The pipe was set in the bottom corner of the pool and extended back into a brick drain leading off towards the River Stour.

For outdoor bathing the pool was 7m x 9.5m and 1.2m deep. Water was probably piped from springs in the hills surrounding the town.

Roman baths were a place to meet friends, take exercise, have a massage, or relax over a game of dice, as well as bathing. Men and women would bathe separately. All would use oils as a cleanser, scraped off with a metal tool or ‘strigil’, before a cold dip to close the pores.


Part of Roman baths cistern on display at the Canterbury Roman Museum

Part of Roman baths cistern

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Opening Times 

Monday to Sunday 10am to 5pm. Christmas eve and New Years eve closing at 4pm. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.


How to find us

Canterbury Roman Museum
Butchery Lane, CT1 2JR

The impressive pillared entrance is in Butchery Lane and very close to the cathedral.
Access to the Roman level via lift, then level access throughout museum.

Phone: 01227 785575



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