Barbican Car Park, Gloucester: update for March 2018
The last of the excavations associated with the redevelopment of the Barbican Car Park in Gloucester have now been completed. This involved the excavation of two inspection chambers in Commercial Road, immediately outside of the site, and in close proximity to the alignment of the former Roman and medieval town wall and ramparts.
The first inspection chamber, approximately 5m², was excavated to about 1.8m below the modern road surface, where we identified a circular stone structure, approximately 2m in diameter, with a flagstone floor sealed by remnants of Opus Signinum, a form of Roman concrete. The structure was cut into the earliest phase of rampart material associated with the Roman defences, and subsequently had been demolished to floor level and sealed by the second or third phase of rampart material, associated with the later 2nd to 3rd-century remodelling of the Roman civic defences. This suggests an early date for the circular structure and it was probably contemporary with the legionary fortress becoming a colonia, or retirement town for Roman army veterans, in the AD 90s.
The form of the structure, and the use of Opus Signinum, perhaps to try to waterproof it, suggests that it may have been a cold plunge bath, possibly associated with a bath-house complex. Evidence for buildings cutting the rampart has been identified previously along Commercial Road and along the eastern defences. Fortunately it has been possible to preserve these important remains in situ by moving the inspection chamber to a new location.
Excavations at the new chamber location identified further evidence of the Roman rampart as well as medieval robbing of the town wall. Medieval decorated floor tile was recovered from the robber trench, suggesting an association with the dissolution of the nearby Gloucester Blackfriars in the 16th century.