Archaeologists have found a plunge pool which could have been part of a healthy living fad in the late 19th century

By Culture24 Reporter | 05 August 2016

A plunge pool could have been created during a pre-war period when people valued the health benefits of jumping into cold water

A photo of a female archaeologist standing in a victorian plunge pool in northampton
A 17-month revamp of Delapre Abbey has struck upon a plunge pool for Victorian bathers© Iain Soden Heritage
The discovery of a Victorian plunge pool has surprised archaeologists at a Grade II-listed 12th century Cluniac nunnery where Yorkists and Lancastrians fought the Battle of Northampton in 1460.

Delapre Abbey is at the centre of a £7.2 million transformation in the latest part of a story which has seen it serve as War Office during World War Two and the country record office for much of the 20th century.

Heritage experts were excavating to the north of the main building when they spotted the “unusual” pool – and they believe it could have been a bath used by health-conscious Victorian visitors.

A photo of a female archaeologist standing in a victorian plunge pool in northampton
Rachel Boyd of the Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust© Courtesy Northampton Borough Council
“At first we were confused about what it was because of the shape and size of it, but then we had a eureka moment,” says Joe Prentice, an archaeological building specialist carrying out the work.

“By the time you reach the late 19th century, places like Delapre had plumbing, which meant they could have these kinds of baths.

“Also in the late 1800s – perhaps the 1880s or 1890s – into the period just pre-war, there was a bit of a fad for healthy living, and a belief in the healing effect of plunging into cold water.”

The abbey will open to the public for the first time in its 900-year history in November 2016.

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Three abbeys to see

Torre Abbey Historic House and Gardens, Torquay
Founded in 1196, Torre Abbey tells the story of over 800 years of history, from life in a rich medieval Premonstratensian monastery, through its dissolution by Henry VIII, the Spanish Armada, the Napoleonic Wars, and Georgian family life in a grand house - as well as its current status as a top museum.

Samson's Tower, Bury St Edmunds
The extensive remains of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monastery in England, shrine of St Edmund. They include the complete 14th century Great Gate and Norman Tower, and the impressive ruins and altered west front of the immense church.

Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall
Abbey House was once the gatehouse for Kirkstall Abbey. Displays in the museum enable you to steep yourself in the romantic history of the abbey. The museum also explores life in Victorian Leeds.
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