A Reused Hypocaust Pillar




Alex Croom

Chrystal Antink

This stone, found near Chester, was originally a hypocaust pillar from a bath-house, which has been later reworked and has a socket cut into the top surface. The shaft is covered in deep peck marks and diagonal tooling, while the base and capital are worked with slightly more care. The top is incomplete but has the remains of a rectangular(?) recess cut into it (60mm deep). Tool marks are visible on the surfaces of the recess, but are better worked than the other surfaces. The secondary function is unclear.

Monolithic stone hypocaust pillars were used during the fourth-century refurbishments of the main fortress baths at Chester, the baths south of the Elliptical Building, and in the praetorium bath-suite. Less well-worked pillars were also used in fourth-century modifications in the only known villa in the region, at Eaton-by-Tarporley, so it is possible this example came from an unknown villa site nearby, but the similarities with examples from other sites in the area suggests it was brought from there for re-use.

Hypocausts were also used to warm domestic spaces as well as bath houses. As the seasons turn now, we can imagine how comforting it would have been to return to your villa, step out of the wind and into the waiting warmth within!

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