Roman Baths lose £90k in donations after going contactless

By Emma Elgee & Simon ParkinBBC News, West of England

Bath and North East Somerset Council A small round Bath sunked in the ground Bath and North East Somerset Council

The Circular Bath was being damaged through the donations

The Roman Baths have lost more than £90,000 in donations since telling visitors not to throw coins in a 2,000-year-old cold plunge pool and to donate through contactless payments instead.

The Circular Bath inside the Roman Baths is a small round cold plunge pool which visitors used to treat like a wishing well.

Conservationists at the attraction made the decision in March 2022 to shut the unofficial wishing well and ask people to donate using a card.

Kevin Guy, leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council said hundreds of thousands of coins were “damaging and corroding” the special site.

The Roman Baths

The Roman Baths is a world heritage site

Mr Guy said at most the cold plunge pool would bring in more than £100,000 but that has now dropped significantly.

While contactless donations have risen to £2,504 in 2022/23 and £2,335 in 2023/24, total donations have dropped tenfold.

The charity has collected a total of £10,812 and £9,490 in donations during those years.

Mr Guy said: “It was originally designed as a cold water immersion plunge poll so historically not a wishing well.

“It’s slightly older than the Trevi fountain in Rome and it’s been there for 2,000 years and the primary concern of the council is to make sure it is still there in another 2,000 years time for future tourists to enjoy.”

‘Still a huge success’

Mr Guy added the Roman Baths are still a success story with more than 1.1 million people visiting last year which made profits of £1.1m.

“That allows us at BANES to have one of the lowest council taxes in the south west but also it allows us to spend that £11 on the most vulnerable in society,” he said.

The money donated through the pool is given to the Roman Baths Foundation – a charity set up in 2015 that supports education, research and conservation programmes.

Mr Guy added they were looking at ways to increase donations to the foundation through other means.

A man in a blue suit

Kevin Guy said the Roman Baths provide millions in profits

“Obviously we want to raise as much money as possible for the foundation, that is really important to us.

“We are looking alternatives to do that…but the most important thing is protecting the Baths for future generations and with the damage that was happening, we can’t let that continue.”

He added teams would have to regularly drain the Circular Bath to collect the coins which often themselves would then need cleaning.

Bath and North East Somerset Council added: “Managing water-damaged coins and the decline in cash usage post-pandemic further supported our decision to look at other ways to encourage support.

“We have introduced new contactless donation points and will be launching a new legacy scheme in the autumn.”

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