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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 84    1969  page 102
Excavations at Eccles Roman Villa, 1968: Seventh Interim Report.
By A. P. Detsicas, M.A., F.S.A. Scot

   Room 96 (Plate I, A), measuring 11 ft. by 11 ft. 6 in., provided the heat for the channelled hypocaust tinder Room 95 through a flue, 1 ft. 6 in. in width, in its north-west wall; both partition walls of the furnace-room were 2 ft. wide and built of ragstone set in yellow mortar. Examination of their construction trenches, however, confirmed the observed fact that these two walls were not of contemporary construction; for not only did the north-west wall of the room look far more solidly built than the south-east one but also its ragstone and mortar construction had continued to the very bottom of its bedding trench, whereas the south-east wall had been founded on a deposit of loose ragstone and debris containing painted wall-plaster and mosaic fragments, as already noted for the partition walls of Rooms 95, 92, and 103,
   Originally, the furnace-room was not floored but the fire had been laid directly on the subsoil, except for the area directly in front of the mouth of the flue where amongst the debris filling were found three fragments of sandstone which have not originated in the Wealden area; they could have come from the Millstone Grit of South Wales or the Midlands or, perhaps, even from abroad.19 All these fragments are slightly altered by heat, and it would thus seem that steps had been taken to ensure that at least the mouth of the flue was floored with durable materials: Kentish ragstone has a calcareous cement which, turning to calcium oxide on heating, would cause the stone to crumble, whereas these pieces of sandstone have a siliceous matrix which would not decay in the heat of the furnace. Two very worn coins, both of Tetricus I and Tetricus II, were found embedded in the subsoil within this furnace.
   At a later stage during the life of Room 96 a reconstruction apparently became imperative because excessive heating of the northwest wall was beginning to affect it, and a pair of cheeks was constructed in order to reduce the area of direct contact; that these cheeks were not part of the original plan is clearly shown by the thin deposit of soot and ash found below them on top of the subsoil and extending to the face of the north-west wall. Both cheeks measured 4 ft. by 3 ft. 6 in. and were built of ragstone bonded with clay which had hardened to a brick consistency as a result of firing in the furnace; at the same time, tiles were laid on the subsoil, again sealing some soot and ash below them, to serve as a floor, though they were very badly cracked and disturbed in the course of later robbing. The entire area of the furnace-room was filled with the usual demolition d6bris and, above the remains of the tiled floor, a fairly thick layer of ashes and charcoal; this deposit
   19 I am indebted to Mr. I. F. Mercer, of the Institute of Geological Sciences, and to Dr. R. P. S. Jefferies, B.A., Ph.D., F.G.S., for the identification of these fragments and useful comments.

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