TimeTeam at Whitestaunton Manor
Whitestaunton Manor, near Chard, was the setting for a TimeTeam investigation carried out in 2003.
The manor itself dates from the 16th century but some remains in its grounds were believed to be the site of a Roman bath house which might have been associated with a villa.This pond in the grounds of Whitestaunton Manor is close by, and above the level of, the excavations.
The site of the excavations was an overgrown muddy depression a few yards from the pond with a stream running nearby. The first task was to remove the vegetation, a task being carried out here by a man with an excavator and Phil Harding with a shovel.
As usual, Stewart Ainsworth spent much time studying the landscape of the area for clues to its possible use in the past.
It didn’t take long for parts of the cleared area to reveal signs of building. Here Phil Harding is discussing the significance of what seemed to be a paved floor.
The discussions soon attracted the interest of Tony Robinson and a cameraman.
The general shape of the structure with several dividing walls and paved floors soon started to appear. The full extent of the floor can be seen on the right. The pools on the floor show the waterlogged nature of the site.
Another view of the excavations. Some of the vegetation which originally covered the whole site is visible in the foreground.
At the extreme right of the picture can be seen a small curved wall creating an apse-like shape. Traces of Roman tesserae were found here indicating it once had a mosaic floor. The plank walkways were essential for wheelbarrows and advisable for people.
The mud was wet, deep and sticky.
In another part of the gardens a team was busy making a small scale recreation of a Roman hypocaust. The heat from the fire travelled along the flue, under the floor of the hypocaust and up chimneys in what would have been the walls of the room.
The chimneys are visible here as is a small area of mosaic which was laid on part of the floor to make it more realistic. Two of the diggers are testing the temperature of the floor. Within a few hours it was comfortably warm to walk on.
At the end of the dig the team was able to confirm that the building had originally been a Roman bath house. However, the walls contained material apparently brought from other areas and documentary research suggested it had been rebuilt as an Edwardian ‘folly’ early in the 20th century by the owner at that time.The Time Team investigators suspected the original bath house would have been associated with a nearby villa but the location of that villa remains a mystery.