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Temple of Sulis

Sacred Well


Sacred spring set to heat up medieval Abbey

In a world heritage fist, the ancient goddess Sulis may be called upon to warm today’s true believers using Bath Abbey.

Although the Abbey was granted planning permission for this unique £18 million scheme two years ago, this month, engineers have begun to explore the ancient Roman drain that runs beside the Abbey. At present, the drain empties 850,000 litres of natural spring water every day into the River Avon. They hope to divert the warm water instead through a network of underground pipes to provide a world-first natural under floor heating system for the abbey. Church leaders believe the plans would provide a unique source of green energy for the abbey and help the 10th century building reconnect with the city's ancient roots.

The Bath springs are the warmest geothermal springs found in the UK. The water which bubbles up from the ground at Bath falls as rain on the nearby Mendip Hills. It percolates down through limestone aquifers to a depth of between 2,700 and 4,300 metres (8,900 and 14,100 ft) where geothermal energy raises the water temperature to between 64 and 96 °C (147.2 and 204.8 °F). Under pressure, the heated water rises to the surface along fissures and faults in the limestone. This process is similar to an artificial one known as Enhanced Geothermal System which also makes use of the high pressures and temperatures below the Earth's crust. Hot water at a temperature of 46 °C (114.8 °F) rises here at the rate of 1,170,000 litres (257,364 imp gal) every day, from a geological fault (the Pennyquick fault).

The first shrine at the site of the hot springs was built by Celts, and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva. Geoffrey of Monmouth in his largely fictional Historia Regum Britanniae describes how in 836 BC the spring was discovered by the British king Bladud who built the first baths. Early in the 18th century Geoffrey's obscure legend was given great prominence as a royal endorsement of the waters' qualities, with the embellishment that the spring had cured Bladud and his herd of pigs of leprosy through wallowing in the warm mud.

In the middle of the 20th century, the city's swimming pool sourced its water directly from the King's Spring through one of three pipelines beneath the River Avon. However, the old municipal hot pools were closed in 1978 after the discovery of an infectious organism in one stratum of the aquifer. After that date, bathing was prohibited. In 1983 a new spa water bore-hole was sunk, providing a clean and safe supply of spa water for drinking in the Pump Room.
Chance Posted by Chance
12th April 2015ce

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