Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


25.6.07
  How to Keep Your Feet Warm in British Weather

By equipping your house with an under-floor hypocaust steam heating, of course.

Mulled spiced wine and braziers helped as well, and there was always the bath house. Information about warm slave girls or boys in bed has not come down to us, but heated bricks were used sometimes.

Remains of the hypocaust system under the Commander's House in Cilurnum (Chesters).

In Rosemary Sutcliff's novel The Silver Branch, a hypocaust system, unused in summer, serves as hiding place for the MCs and a certain bronze eagle.
 
Comments:
A disused hypocaust also figures in Mary Stewart's first novel of her Arthurian trilogy for Merlin to lurk about in and overhear private conversations and to hide from tormentors.
 
Well, it is high enough to crawl around in it - esp. for a child.

But with two fictional examples, I can't use the idea myself. :(
 
Hubs and I went to Bath a few months back and I believe we took pictures of the hypocausts in some of the rooms.

I confess I don't understand quite how they worked, though...
 
Why not. I think it would be a great hiding place, especially if the people the character is hiding from were either ignorant of its existence or underestimated its size. Maybe use it in a different way? Great pictures, by the way. Thanks for sharing them *g*.
 
Hi december, welcome to my blog.

Lol, I admit I'ver never gone into the details of the hypocaust - I know it works with steam/hot air, but else, Physics never was a subject I liked. ;)

Ann,
the Saxons mercenaries the ursurper Allectus hired in The Silver Branch don't know about the heating and miss the people they're after. Don't know about the Merlin scene; I haven't read the book yet, but he's a boy and boy always go places they aren't supposed to go. :)

But I'd have to come up with a different use, if any.
 
Th' Cap'n needs more info on th' "Warm Slave Girls"...
 
Capn,
the officers had houses and could bring their families - which included slaves. The soldiers had to live in barracks, but many of them had inofficial families outside the fort which they visited. No lack of warm (slave) girls, I suppose. :)
 
I second Ann - why not? The hypocausts existed, and could have made hiding places and/or secret routes, providing the characters didn't mind having to crawl. Ditto with large Roman sewers and aqueduct channels. It's certainly much preferable to the generic 'secret passage'.

I believe hypocausts worked by having a large furnace at one end, usually the end nearest the bath house. There are flues running vertically in the walls of the building, like small chimneys connecting the underfloor space with the outside air. Hot air tries to rise, so it comes out of the furnace and flows through the spaces under the floor until it finds a flue, when it rises up the flue and escapes to the outside. The air escaping from the flues creates a draught, which draws more hot air out of the furnace, and so on. I think. I imagine they took ages to warm up (so maybe they had to be kept alight most of the time in the winter?) and I dread to think how much fuel they must have needed.
 
Well, let's see if I can make use of a hypocaust. :)

The sewers in Rome do play a role in my Visigoth novel.
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.

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