Bath's famous Roman Baths emptied and scrubbed clean for summer visitors

The West Country’s best-known Roman bath is getting a facelift this week.

Ahead of late-night openings this summer, the Great Bath in Bath is being drained, cleaned and refilled to keep the water clear by preventing the growth of algae.

The two-day cleaning process began yesterday (3 July) and last until the end of today. More than one million litres of hot water is drained during the clean up.

During this process, the baths are left open to the public so that visitors can watch.

Although no longer open for washing, the Roman Baths bring in more than one million visitors each year and remain one of the most-well known tourist attractions in Somerset.

The historic Great Bath was built two thousand years ago in AD76 with mineral water heated by bubbling, natural hot springs.

Here's what it looked like when they cleaned the Great Bath in 2019:

But what actually happens during the cleaning process?

Firstly, the King’s Spring where the hot water rises, is drained. The empty Spring chamber is cleaned with hoses and brushes, before being re-filled with hot water from below.

Whilst draining, a valve controlling the flow from the Spring to the Great Bath is closed and water is diverted into a Roman drain before travelling into the River Avon.

A Roman sluice gate is then opened in the north east corner - allowing the water to flow from the spring to the river; a method that hasn’t changed for over two thousand years. 

The controlled draining process of the Great Bath takes several hours to drain to ensure that it doesn’t flood.

As the water level drops, the bottom and the sides of the bath are cleaned with soft brushes with attention to the Roman stonework and lead sheet lining.

Soon after, a pump is set up and used to help remove the final residues of the water and algae.

The Roman Baths Collections team may also complete a visual inspection of the Great Bathchecking the condition of the stonework and lead sheets. 

The paddle is then put back and the sluice gate is closed, and the Great Bath is refilled with water from the King’s Spring at the rate of thirteen litres per second.