A Roman Settlement and Bath House at Shadwell


Excavations at Tobacco Dock and Babe Ruth restaurant, The Highway, London

Alistair Douglas, James Gerrard and Berni Sudds, 2011.

PCA Monograph 12

ISBN 978-0956305428


Excavations in 2002 by Pre-Construct Archaeology on two adjacent sites in Shadwell revealed an extensive late Romano-British settlement over a kilometre beyond the walls of Londinium, on an escarpment overlooking the north bank of the Thames. The area’s importance became apparent in the 1970s through the discovery of monumental masonry and third-century settlement and burial evidence.

At Tobacco Dock, Roman activity increased dramatically in the third century when the natural escarpment was terraced and buildings, drains and water tanks were constructed. In the subsequent excavation beneath Babe Ruth restaurant to the east, a substantial, well-preserved masonry bath house was revealed, along with hypocausts, an apse and ready access to fresh spring water. A well-appointed building to its north apparently serviced the needs of the baths and its visitors. The rich finds assemblage includes a gold ear-ring and necklace, suggesting the presence of wealthy women at the baths, alongside bracelets, finger-rings and a large collection of hair pins. The pottery includes an unusual late assemblage of imported samian and amphora whilst the animal bone and palaeoenvironmental remains provide a wealth of information about the local environment, economy and diet, including rare early evidence for the elusive black rat.

The third century AD saw the establishment of a settlement at Shadwell, one which thrived and apparently prospered, perhaps in part due to the development of an adjacent port facility or beachmarket. Over time the bath house was modified and extended and ancillary buildings were frequently upgraded.

This volume presents the evidence for Roman Shadwell as revealed by these excavations and considers its place within the broader context of Londinium and its hinterland.

  1. Richard Ringley (British Archaeology review)

    This exemplary report provides a stimulating and full account of recent excavations at Shadwell, where there was an important late Roman settlement, situated about a kilometre downstream from the Roman city ofLondinium. A substantial part of the title’s bath house was excavated, and dated to the mid to late third century. Several other large buildings lay close by, which, it is suggested, were connected to the public baths. The previously known so-called “Shadwell tower”is also interpreted as part of this complex, dismissing earlier suggestions that it represented a military watchtower. This study contributes significant new information and well-informed discussion of this important site. The considerable evidence for the settlement at Shadwell in late Roman times may suggest that it becan1e the port of Roman London, but further excavations along the riverfront will be required to assess this idea.

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