The 2018 excavation at Warblington had as its prime objective the full examination of the building we have thought of as the bathhouse (Trench A). We had excavated parts of it in 2016 and 2017. Our intention was to expose the whole of the bathhouse and understand both how the elements related to each other and to try and date the structure.
Some of these objectives have been achieved. Once again, we struggled with the remains of robbed walls which leave traces of creamy mortar mixed with the natural brick earth – very difficult to identify clearly.
We did discover:
- Evidence of burning and substantial brick piers which were either clearly part of, or very close to the stokehole. This part of the site was very deep and we ran out of time before fully exploring the bottom.
- Evidence of an apparent two phase construction in which the hypocaust of the later phase was underpinned by a mass of Roman period rubble.
- Evidence of a substantial wall in the middle of the bathhouse. This seemed to relate most clearly to the second phase.
- A series of other pilae stacks constructed of tiles known as besales.
- We have found a great deal of painted plaster, some with evidence of colours other than red and defined patterns.
- Interestingly, we have found very little Opus Signinum. This could mean that the later building was not a bathhouse, but a heated formal dining room, similar to the one at Bignor. This interpretation might also explain the size which seems to be big for a villa bathhouse.
In terms of dating evidence we have found:
- Further coins from the House of Constantine reinforcing discoveries in previous years of mid- 4th century occupation.
- Part of a pot dated to 380 – 420 CE. This may have been associated with a midden near the bathhouse stoke hole. However, it is the latest evidence of activity on the site we have yet discovered. It extends activity on the site by another 50 years.
- A number of tegulae (roof tile) ends, which might be dateable.
As is so often the case, while these discoveries have resolved some issues, they have also raised more questions. The Fieldwork Committee of the Chichester and District Archaeology Society will be spending the winter considering the next steps.