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Lecture Report – The Roman city of Calleva

The latest lecture to the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group was given on 10th November by Prof. Michael Fulford of Reading University on the excavation of the bathhouse in the Roman town of Calleva, or Silchester. No excavations took place there during 2020, because of the pandemic, but the university hopes to resume them in the summer of 2021.

The latest excavation continued the work done at the beginning of the 20th century and uncovered the earliest version of the baths. These dated from the time of the emperor Nero (ruled 54-68AD), shortly after the Roman conquest, as evidenced by the discovery of a ceramic tile bearing his name. The baths were set at a slant to the line of the Roman street, suggesting that they were originally aligned with the street in the original Iron Age town.

The baths were enlarged later, but not without problems. The first heating system for the hot room did not work well; it had to be redesigned with the furnace at the opposite end. The baths remained in use until the late 4th century, shortly before the Romans left Britain. Finds from this later period included a gold ring and an elaborate belt fitting – showing that some of the bathers were far from poor!

The next talk to the group will be given by our Dr Michael Redley on ‘Public health and the growth of Henley in the late nineteenth century’ on Tuesday 1st December. This is a change from the scheduled talk, which was better suited to live rather than Zoom presentation. Members of HAHG will receive a Zoom link by email in advance of the date.