Uncovering Roman Carlisle

The Uncovering Roman Carlisle exhibition is going on tour!

Uncovering Roman Carlisle is coming to a venue near you.

Following the Uncovering Roman Carlisle exhibition at Tullie (5 March - 11 June 2022), it will be touring around North Cumbria. 

On display will be real objects from the excavation of the Roman bathhouse at Carlisle Cricket Club, along with information, images, and stories from people on site. Join us to share in the discovery of the most important Roman building in Carlisle’s history. 

For details of venues for Uncovering Roman Carlisle on tour check here

Uncovering Roman Carlisle brings together the most significant objects from last year’s excavation of Carlisle’s Roman Bathhouse - one of the most important Roman buildings ever found in Carlisle at the site of Hadrian’s Wall’s largest fort. This professionally led community excavation took place in later Summer 2021, after the Bathhouses’ initial discovery in 2017.

The exhibition introduces visitors to the archaeological processes and significant discoveries at the site.  Through showing the real objects and information panels we see these incredible buildings emerge and the find the people who used, worked and visited the Bathhouse.

At the Bathhouse, all the hard labour was done by volunteers from Carlisle and beyond and the exhibition invites visitors to share the volunteers’ on-site experiences. Visitors are very much invited to share the volunteers’ joy of discovery through their eyes and words and join the excitement that was felt by all.

Amongst the Bathhouse artefacts on display is the object that started it all:  a fragment of a dedication stone to Julia Domna the wife of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus and ‘Mother of the Empire’.  Bone hair pins, gaming pieces and graffitied pottery tell of the real people who used the buildings. Included are several hypocaust tiles which were part of the baths’ underfloor heating system and had been made locally. Stamped with the letters “IMP”, they were likely made on the Roman Emperor’s direct orders to be used in the construction of the Bathhouse. Many of them have imprints accidently made by animals or humans during the manufacturing process.

The exhibition at Tullie House celebrates the amazing objects as well as the volunteers who excavated them. It brings together the Roman community that enjoyed the Bathhouse for relaxation and bathing in the early 200s AD, and the community of the early 21st century who carefully uncovered the traces they left behind.

The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and has been delivered in partnership with Tullie House, Carlisle City Council, Wardell Armstrong and Carlisle Cricket Club.

About the project

The Uncovering Roman Carlisle project received a £99,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant for an 18-month, programme of community archaeological investigation, exhibitions, and engagement exploring Carlisle’s Roman remains. The project is being led by a partnership of Carlisle City Council, Carlisle Cricket Club, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery and Wardell Armstrong.

The project included a 28-day community excavation of a Roman bathhouse , discovered in 2017, on a site based within the grounds of Carlisle Cricket Club in Stanwix. Starting on Tuesday 31 August, the excavation will be undertaken by local volunteers, with supervision from professional archaeologists. A programme of engagement of local adults, families and school pupils ran throughout the excavation in September.

Over 150 volunteers signed up to take part in the excavation.

Image: Stuart Walker Photography

Supported through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project enabled local residents to sign up as volunteers. A pop-up museum and Excavation Lab on site offered interpretation for visitors and featured frequent dig and finds updates from the excavation. 

Stanwix is the site of the largest fort on Hadrian’s Wall, and finds from the 2017 excavation suggest Carlisle was, for a period of time, the centre of the Imperial court and the Roman Empire. The remains are of international significance, being discovered on Hadrian’s Wall, part of the UNESCO Frontier of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

The site offered the opportunity to uncover and develop a wider understanding of Roman Carlisle that is largely unknown in relation to other significant sites on Hadrian’s Wall.

A fantastic 3D reconstruction of the 2017 excavation can be found here

Image: Stuart Walker Photography