A ROMAN bathhouse discovered in Colchester could have formed part of a huge state-run hotel, archaeologists believe.
The deluxe boarding house, intended for officials travelling across the empire, would have sat on the site of the current sixth-form college.
It would have been close to the town's North Gates - one of the entrances to Camulodunum, the Roman capital of Britain - at the foot of North Hill.
The location would have been typical of a mansio, a high-class establishment where Roman officials, travellers on government business and important messengers could spend the night, eat, or even just change horses.
Philip Crummy, director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, said: “There were lots of mansios in the Roman Empire, dotted around approximately 25 miles apart.
“We know that buildings in Colchester fronted on to the Roman street. But here we have found some remains well back from the street, so we have guessed this must have been a big building.
“Mansios were often found near town gates and often had detached bathrooms, like we found at the college.
“Also we have found a kind of plaster that is an imitation of Greek and Egyptian marble veneer which was used to decorate walls. This is often associated with government or very expensive buildings.”
If a mansio did stand on the site, it would have been used by wealthy and important guests.
“It is just speculation because we have only found a very small amount, but we know Colchester would have had a mansio and what we have found suggests this may well have been it,” said Mr Crummy.
“This also helps explain the detached bathhouse we discovered earlier this year. Most houses did not have detached bathhouses, but you do find them with mansios.”
Earlier this year the archaeological trust also announced the discovery of a Roman circus - a chariot racetrack - on former MoD land outside the town's historic walls.