Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | October 16, 2009

Why Not Do an Excavation on the Petty Cash?

Last night Richard Heygate and I presented ‘The Book of English Magic’ at one of the most interesting bookshops in England. Waterstones in Canterbury is situated right in the middle of the old city, just a stone’s throw from the cathedral and the pedestrianised area of narrow streets and the river Stour which winds its way through the town carrying punt-loads of tourists (punters I suppose).

Martin Latham, the manager, has an incredible enthusiasm for what books can do for people: he’s organised hundreds of talks at the shop over the last few decades, inviting authors like J.K.Rowling, Philip Pulman, Terence Stamp, and Deepak Chopra. In the past he’s arranged over 100 events a year. Before the talk he told us how he had arranged for an excavation in the shop’s basement using the firm’s petty cash. It cost a bit, but in the end but it was well worth it – they found a Roman bath complex there. After the talk we had a look and Richard dowsed two ley lines that crossed there. It can be viewed by the public – if you’re ever in Canterbury take a look. Here, from their website:

In the basement you can see the Roman Bath-house floor, a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Latham exposed these remains by paying the Canterbury Archaeological Trust £1000: the biggest Petty Cash slip in history! According to the Trust, these very large Baths were probably ritual as well as relaxing: such Bath-complexes housed sleeping areas where bathers could enjoy beneficial dreams after their cleansing. Perhaps the site has a memory: the bookshop still develops the subconscious of its visitors, and our author talks over the years (Paulo Coelho, for example) have profoundly affected thousands of people.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll put this on my list for next spring when I mean to visit Canterbury. Funny I should be writing a short story about Roman ruins just now.

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