Jewry Wall / Museum / Baths
The Jewry Wall
The Jewry Wall is one of Leicester's most famous landmarks and is one of the most outstanding Roman civic monuments in the country. It is one of the largest Roman public buildings to have survived in Britain and is a rare example of Roman walling which has survived for nearly 2000 years. Built in the 2nd century AD, it forms part of the public baths complex near to the Roman forum - originally it was part of the Roman public baths. It separated the exercise hall, which stood on the site of St. Nicholas church, from the rest of the baths. The site was excavated between 1936 - 1939.
The origin of the name is a mystery though it may have been named after Leicester's medieval Jewish community who were expelled from Leicester by the town charter of 1250. Another possibility is that the wall came to be associated with the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, all that survived of the great Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans.
The Jewry Wall Museum
The Jewry Wall Museum focuses on the archaeology and history of Leicestershire, from prehistoric times to 1485. Displays concentrate on all aspects of life, from weapons to jewellery and burial rituals.
Situated within the Castle Park area, at the heart of oldest part of the city and less than five minutes walk from the modern city centre, Jewry Wall is close to a number of historic buildings, including; the Guildhall, Wygston's House Museum of Costume, Newarke Houses Museum, Castle Gardens and Castle Motte, Leicester Cathedral and the church of St. Mary de Castro.
One of the most interesting finds in the prehistoric section of the museum is the Welby Hoard. This is a range of Bronze Age metal work, including axe heads, spear heads and belt decorations. The Roman displays are probably the most noted part of the collection, especially for the fabulous mosaic floors which are on display.
The most famous of these is the Peacock pavement, which was discovered in 1898 and, until 1996, could be viewed in the basement of a nearby corset shop. The mosaic is made up of octagonal sections containing floral patterns, the most spectacular being the centre octagon, which contains the detailed image of a peacock.
The peacock was a symbol of the Roman goddess Juno, queen of the gods.
The Saxon exhibits present an insight into the lives of the people who lived in Leicester from the sixth to the eleventh centuries.
This section includes the Glen Parva Lady, discovered in 1866. A reconstruction of the women is displayed next to her skeleton, along with the items that were buried alongside her.
The final section of the museum covers the Medieval period of Leicester's history, including displays on the Norman Conquest, Medieval town life, housing and religion.
One of the most interesting areas of the display is the section on the Medieval coal mines at Coleorton, which show how the mines were constructed and functioned, the tools used by the miners, and how dangerous mining was at that time.
The museum is now the hub of Leicester's early history. 'The Making of Leicester', a multi-media exhibition, tells the story of the City from the Iron Age to the year 2000. The exhibition focuses on the people who created Leicester's colourful history in a series of exciting formats.
The exhibition demonstrates how archaeologists uncover the secrets of the past in a series of activities that display basic techniques. Visitors, in partucular children, are asked to become archaeological detectives via a wide variety of activities that incorporate archaeological skills.Children will also be able to re-create the past by dressing up in a variety of historical costumes specially created for the exhibition.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is the specially commissioned portraits of Leicester at different historical periods and the scientific re-creation of the faces of historic Leicester citizens from their skulls. These figures include an Iron Age man found in Rushey Mead, a man and a woman from the Roman period (excavated in Newarke Street) and a 13th century Medieval friar.
The face of a Saxon woman, known as the 'Glen Parva Lady', has also been brought to life by a specialist team at the University of Manchester who used the techniques of physically rebuilding the face from the skull building up muscles on the bone structure. Computer generated faces from the University of London Medical Sciences department have been brought to life by the Leicestershire artist Norman Fahy.
The exhibition includes a series of illustrations showing street scenes from Iron Age, Roman, Saxon, Medieval and 18th century Leicester, together with drawings of the burial of the Glen Parva Lady and the front entrance to the Roman Forum.
Also featured within the exhibition
are new exhibits including a millennium sun dial street scene, new displays
on the Roman Forum and the 1936-39 excavations, a 'time wall' that shows an
overview of the different time periods from 400,000 BC to the present plus
"Leicester in the Year 2000', a competition looking at how Leicester
is viewed in the new millennium.
The ruins between the Jewry Wall and the museum were excavated in the 1930s and preserved by the enlightened town council of the day for future generations to visit. Prior to the excavations it was thought that the Roman forum or marketplace was on this site. We now know that the forum is below St. Nicholas Circle. Instead the archaeologists discovered the remains of the Roman baths to be about A.D.150.
The baths were more like Turkish Baths than the swimming pools of today. Bathers progressed through cold, warm and hot rooms and could visit a sweat room. The baths enabled the citizens of Rome to keep clean and gossip with their friends. An exercise hall allowed the young and energetic to keep fit.
There is a car park adjacent to the
museum, within St. Nicholas Circle. Wheelchair access is available from Holy
Bones, through Vaughan College private car park. Please telephone in advance
so that we can make sure the access through the car park is clear. The museum
displays and toilet are entirely wheelchair accessible.
There is a coach drop-off point right outside the museum and parking is available very close by. Full disabled access by non-public entrance - please arrange in advance with staff. Room available for lunch.
The Jewry Wall Museum & Site
St. Nicholas Circle
Tel: 0116 247 3021
April to September:
Monday Saturday 10.00am to 5.00pm,
Sunday 1.00pm to 5.00pm.
October to March:
Monday Saturday 10.00am to 4.00pm,
Sunday 1.00pm to 4.00pm.
Closed: December 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st 2001 & January 1st 2002
Copyright©Leicester City Museums
at the Jewry Wall Museum
The museum provides a stimulating learning environment for schools, with an on-site education room. Obviously lending itself to the history study units on The Romans and Mediaeval Realms, the museum traces the continued occupation of Leicestershire and provides a particularly visual sense of the Key Concepts: Chronology and Change & Continuity.
A handling collection of Roman artefacts is available for school use on site, for a small charge. We also run an active learning workshop that could be adapted for Key Stage 3 students.
A-Level Classical Civilisation and GCSE Archaeology students are most welcome and it is hoped that Skills Development sessions can be organised for these groups in the near future.
Jewry Wall can also be used as a learning resource for many other subjects including;
Population, Settlement, Economic Activities and Development Students can trace the pattern of settlement in Leicestershire from the earliest of times. They can discover the secrets of Roman town planning and compare the earliest settlement of Leicester with today's town centre. They could use the archaeological information to trace settlement patterns throughout Leicestershire's history.
Students could also use the collections to explore how the modern city is developing its heritage industries, especially around the Castle Park area.
Knowledge & Understanding Early technologies, building techniques, fabrics, tools and products can be explored through the displays, plus the structure of the Jewry Wall and baths complex outside can be investigated easily. Students could compare the technologies of prehistoric people with those of the Romans and Saxons.
Shape, Space & Measures Patterns and tessellation, shape, symmetry and reflection can easily be explored through the museum's beautiful mosaics. The remains of the baths could be used in a measuring or mapping exercise.
Students could explore attitudes towards death and religion, practised by past societies. They could examine the human remains and discuss the ethics of putting human corpses on display in museums.
They could combine a visit to Jewry Wall with trips to the nearby Guru Nanak Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) or the Cathedral, St, Nicholas Church, St. Mary de Castro or the Jain Centre.
Students undertaking special projects are very welcome and are encouraged to make an appointment if they would like expert help.
The museum also organises a number of special events each year. Past activities have included "Roman Cooking", "Roman Saturnalia" and early music concerts. If you would like to know about any forthcoming events, please contact the museum.
To receive further information, or to book a visit, please contact: Denise Snow, Education Team Assistant 0116 247 3202.