Welcome to the Roman Baths Blog!

This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Money Mondays: Commemorative Coinage

Beau the Hippo has become the emblem of the Beau Street Hoard, and we’ve learnt how a Hippo ended up on a Roman coin from an early blog post by Susan which you can read here.

A  Hippo was just one of a number of animals depicted on coins by Philip I in 248AD to commemorate 1000 years since the founding of Rome. These animals were brought to Rome to be part of a series of games held for the anniversary in arenas, such as the Coliseum, around Rome. Other coins from the anniversary show the legend associated with the founding of Rome, of twins Romulus and Remus being nursed to health by a She-Wolf.

Taking this concept of coins commemorating specific events or occasions I decided to investigate what other coins there might be in the Roman Baths collection that are commemorative or celebrating key events for my Money Mondays display.

What I discovered while going through the collections database was a whole range of coins and medals that had been used to commemorate events, anniversaries or people.

As the Royal Mint are the body permitted to manufacture, or mint, the coins of the UK, commemorative souvenirs have been a popular way of marking Royal events such as Jubilees for the last three centuries. My display included a whole range of Royal events, from a coin celebrating the birth of James II in 1633 right up to a very shiny five pound coin for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, with a few coronations and deaths in between! Key moments in battles and important treaties can also be found on coins. Two examples I chose for display included the Treaty of Paris in 1814 and a striking medal of the Duke of Wellington for the Battle of Waterloo!

I even discovered some medals commemorating local events in Bath such as Queen Charlotte’s visit in 1817 which brought my research to the Records Office to read through some issues of the Bath Chronicle from the time.

The display generated a lot of interest on the night and I particularly enjoyed being able to display items from 248AD right up to 2012 which all connected! The variety of coins from different centuries and eras helped to contextualise the Beau Street Hoard coins in a new way too!

Holly Furlong, Leicester Placement Student

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mint innit - How was money made?

One of the questions the Collections staff and volunteers are frequently asked during a Beau Street Hoard event is ‘how are coins made’? So when I was asked to put together one of the Money Monday handling sessions I thought it would be a good time to have a look in more detail at The Roman Baths collection of Roman and Medieval coins, how they were made, who made them and where this happened.

Texts from the Roman and Medieval period give little away when it comes to making coins and so archaeology has been used to help recreate some of the process. The first step was to produce a blank coin by pouring molten metal into a circular mould. Once the blank was cool enough, the design for the coin would be stamped onto the blank using dies (punches). The metal would be heated so that it was malleable and the coin placed in between two dies, which would then be struck with a hammer.

The Roman Baths have their very own coin die and blanks to strike coins.

So who made coins and where did this happen? Roman coins were initially produced in Rome by a set of three magistrates. As the Empire began to expand more mints were created and others were closed down. The collection at The Roman Baths comes from far and wide. There is even a coin that was made in Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey).

A map showing where the Beau Street Hoard coins were made

Medieval coins were initially made across England and Wales by individuals known as moneyers. You may be able to see on the map that there was even a mint at Bath. The earliest coins known to have been struck at Bath were issued by Edward the Elder (AD899-924/5) and the mint remained in use until the late 12th Century.

A map showing mint towns during the period c.973-1158
© Martin Allen 2012
There were however, many changes made to the production of coins during the Medieval period. In the 13th Century mints were placed under the control of officials known as masters and wardens. There was also a radical reduction of mint towns during the 13th and 14th Century and, by the 15th Century, the only regularly functioning mint was in London.

Emma, Future Curator

Monday, 1 September 2014

Roman Society Museum Internship Bursary

During the end of final year at the University of Exeter I applied to the Roman Society, UK for their Museum Internship Bursary. The bursary is offered as part of a 3 - week placement which takes place at the available museums and covers travel expenses for the whole placement. The aim of the scheme is to give the successful applicant’s museum and collections experience.

My application was successful and I was selected as one of six out of 80 applications for the scheme. The Roman Baths Museum was my museum of choice and they selected me to work in their collections department; in order for me to expand my experience in post-excavation archaeological work because I already have a lot of experience working in the field on archaeological sites, both in the UK and abroad.

Through the internship I have been able to have a detailed insight into archaeological and museum systems outside excavations and have been able to experience a number of different parts of Museum work:
What it is like to catalogue and archive objects (such as the Beau Street Roman Coin Hoard which is currently being catalogued, archived and prepared for storage and display at the Roman Baths and being prepared for Road shows later this year);
Individually archive and catalogue an archaeological site which had come into the Roman Baths Museum from the local county;
Correctly organise and input all the data from the coin hoard into a central database;
Plan and run exhibitions/ events and see just how much time and planning needs to go into each; including running my own display event on Money Monday at the Baths;
Assist Museum staff and visitors on the pre-booked Tunnel Tours of the Roman Baths.

My time at the Roman Baths and the experience I’ve gained here will be extremely valuable to both myself as an individual and my appreciation of museum work as well as providing me with further opportunities in Archaeology and Museum worlds.

Me, Katy and Emma showing off the Beau Street Hoard staff t-shirts at a Conservation Evening
Matthew Batchelor