The only visible remains of Roman Leicester are the public baths. The bathing ritual lay at the heart of Roman social life.
Two thousand years ago, this part of Leicester was an important settlement for the Corieltavi, a native British tribe who occupied the area known today as the East Midlands. Following the Roman Conquest of AD43 the town was called Ratae Corieltavorum. It became a thriving centre for the next four hundred years.
Encouraged by their conquerors, the Corieltavi built many great public buildings including the baths, which were constructed in about AD150.
The forum and basilica complex is situated behind the church of St Nicholas. It was the centre of local government and trade. A market hall was built behind the church and a Roman temple stood nearby.
In front of the church stands the Jewry Wall, the only upstanding remains of the public baths. It is one of the largest remaining pieces of Roman masonry in Britain. People entered the baths through the arches in the wall after exercising in the gym (palaestra), a large building now lying beneath the church. The base of each arch is at Roman floor level.
The 1936 excavations and Kathleen Kenyon
The remains of the Roman baths were discovered in 1936 when, by coincidence, a factory was demolished to build a new swimming baths. Pioneering archaeologist Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon (1906-1978) excavated the current site.
The text and pictures on this page are derived from the 'Heritage Unlocked' series of guidebooks published in 2004. We intend to review, update and enhance the content in the near future as part of the Portico project, whose objective is to provide information on the history, significance, research background and sources for all English Heritage properties.