Clay roof tile decoration from Exeter

Contributed by RAMM Exeter

Clay roof tile decoration from Exeter

There is something about a face that can't help but make you wonder about
its story.

Particularly a scowling face like this, in gorgeously warm, worn terracotta clay. Extraordinarily this face once looked down from the roof of a Roman bath-house in Exeter nearly 2000 years ago. For the first time, the Roman immigration was making Devon part of an international Empire, which stretched from Britain to the Middle East and Africa. The Roman Legion only spent around 20 years in Exeter before destroying their fortress and moving on. Which makes this object even rarer.

Not just a pretty face, this is a type of roof tile called an antefix. It stopped the water from seeping in where the roof meets the wall. Except this wasn't just any old wall: it was the first stone building in Exeter, built around AD 60. Antefixes were used to seal the ends of the curved tiles (imbrices) which covered the vertical joint between the flat tiles (tegulae). The fierce faces, like the building itself, demonstrated the power and extent of the Roman Empire and anyone approaching the building would have felt this supremacy.

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Comments

  • 4 comments
  • 1. At 17:12 on 21 July 2010, RAMM Exeter wrote:

    The Roman fella looks unhappy.

    (Julia from Exwick, in a Moving Here session organised by RAMM Exeter)

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  • 2. At 20:58 on 21 July 2010, RAMM Exeter wrote:

    This is from the bath house just by the cathedral. It's from one of the earliest stone buildings in the country?. It would have been on eaves of the bathhouse at a great height.... I love it because it?s a contemporary image of a person. Or is it a god? I don't know.

    (Jenny Durrant, RAMM Assistant Curator of Antiquities, in a Moving Here session organised by RAMM)

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  • 3. At 21:00 on 21 July 2010, RAMM Exeter wrote:

    Why make so much effort for something so high up? It's like gargoyles?. Artisans always took pride in work.

    (Alan, local historian in Exwick History Group, in a Moving Here session organised by RAMM Exeter)

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  • 4. At 13:53 on 22 July 2010, RAMM Exeter wrote:

    The chipped lip gives him more agonised pain with the lips pulled back, teeth exposed and neck back. Maybe [the artist] was thinking of someone who has suffered.

    (Margaret Hammond, painter, in a Moving Here session organised by RAMM Exeter)

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60 AD

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