You could drive along the A1(M) road hundreds of times (as some poor souls do) and never guess what lay under the highway. You could even drive around the busy roundabout on the A1000 Welwyn By-Pass which runs parallel to the A1(M) without noticing the entrance.
But if you did stop you might find this strange burrow beneath the roaring traffic which leads, should you follow it like Alice after the White Rabbit, to an unexpected world,
This downsloping tunnel is not part of the local sewer system as you might reasonably expect but is in the care of Hertfordshire Museums.
For here between 1960 and 1973 a local archaeologist called Tony Rook excavated part of a complex of Roman buildings. No sooner had he completed the work than plans were published for a new major road - going right over top of the site.
It was decided to build a "vault" over the remains and open it up as an educational facility and visitor attraction. This is the Roman baths which were part of a villa complex known to archaeologists as Dicket Mead. The photo above shows the poor old servant stoking the fires to heat the boiler.....
….meanwhile the privileged few lounge around in luxury. It has been suggested that as these buildings are close to a major Roman road it may have been the equivalent of a hotel. Or it may just be part of the villa of a wealthy family. It was built in the third century AD and was occupied for around 150 years.
There is also a display of various artefacts discovered during the excavation.
And here's a model of the buildings which give a little more idea of the layout. Nearest to us is the boiler room, but the bather entered via the far end where there's a cool room (frigidarium) which also acted as a changing room. They then proceeded to the warm room (tepidarium) where they may have had a massage, before entering the steamy hot room (caldarium). To the side of the hot room there's a hot bath. They then went out via the warm room and finished off with a cold plunge bath next to the cool room.
Looking back you can see the unfortunate servant, still stoking the boiler and unaware of the twenty-first century traffic rushing by overhead.