The Bath Abbey Footprint Project is a Heritage Lottery Fund project to repair the Abbey’s collapsing floor, install a new eco-friendly heating system using Bath’s hot springs, and provide new, improved space and facilities to ensure the Abbey is more sustainable, hospitable and useable for local residents, worshippers and visitors alike.
Wessex Archaeology will be working alongside Bath-based firm Emery to help deliver the £19.3 million Footprint Project. Work inside the Abbey is due to start this week and will be undertaken over the next couple of years.
Bath Abbey is located in the centre of the City of Bath, a short distance to the north-east of the hot spring – a location that has been the focus of human activity from the prehistoric period onwards. In the 1st century AD a temple, dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva, and bathing complex was constructed around the hot springs; this formed the core of the Roman settlement of Aquae Sulis.
By the Saxon period, a monastery had been established in the town, probably on the site of the Abbey. Archaeological evidence for this includes a late Saxon cemetery containing 9th–10th century AD burials (to the south of the Abbey), and fragments of Saxon architectural stonework and other finds from several nearby locations.
In AD 1090, John of Tours, the newly appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells, began the construction of a huge cathedral on the Abbey site: this building was twice the size of that which we see today. By the late medieval period, the cathedral had fallen into disrepair, and in 1502, Bishop King took the decision to demolish the cathedral and built the present Abbey Church. This and later developments raised the ground levels in and around the Abbey by several metres, leaving the remains of medieval and earlier activity buried deep below the present street level.
Staff from Wessex Archaeology’s Bristol Office will be on site from this week to undertake major archaeological excavations and recording as part of the renovation work. The Footprint Project offers a rare opportunity to investigate archaeological remains in the heart of the Bath World Heritage Site, and we are hoping to uncover remains dating from the Romano-British period onwards.