Brian Philp looks back to Huggin Hill Roman Baths in 1964


Just found a few minutes to think back on our earlier work.

In August I made one of my regular visits to Guildhall Museum where Ralph Merrifield would help date my coins from the Reculver excavations from as early as 1952. That Friday Peter Marsden took me to see a barren building site called Huggin Hill. The clearance contractor has just scraped across the top of a large curving Roman (?) wall and was ready to proceed. There was just the Bank Holiday week-end and Peter had no team. Realising the potential I cancelled our planned excavation on Hayes Common, Bromley and took a team of 18 trained amateurs from our Bromley and West Kent Group for the whole of the three days.
We made a massive input with three large and deep trenches which showed the walls of a large bath, once heated, still standing head-high. This included a part of a fine hypocaust arch, clear traces of vertical jacketing and a wall-niche. Ralph Merrifield turned up on the last day and said the effort was 'Herculean' but I dont remember any elderly Greek actually being there! At the last moment we had to backfill by hand even though we had piled the soil up on the blade of the contractor's bulldozer. My own method would have been to give the driver £5 to push it back in 20 seconds. I also left my reserve trowel in the wall niche, which I understand was found many years later when the large-scale dig took place.
Nick Farrent turned up to do some useful PR whilst we excavated and the team effort inspired the later formation of the City of London Archaeological Group (COLAG) which did such good work. Of our team John Swale, David Bartlett and Cedric Hart were my main stalwarts.

As we were otherwise digging a rather barren Bronze Age site, finding Roman masonry standing was a pleasant change, though that Bank Holiday was burning hot and we had to spray each other with the contractors hosepipe to keep cool.

Will try to recall our Forum excavation next time.


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