Fortuna Villa's restored Roman bath revealed

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FORTUNA Villa’s Roman bath has been restored to its former glory.

On Wednesday, owners Paul and Lisa Banks unveiled the finished work on the bath, which lies next to the iconic mansion on Chum Street.

When the house and its grounds were held by the Defence Force, the bath was roofed and the pool covered, with the space converted into darkrooms, a cellar and bromide rooms.

But now the roof has been removed, the original window arches have been restored, and the bath itself is filled and ready to entice swimmers.

“Everything was already here, it was just covered; so we just uncovered it, basically,” Mr Banks said.

The window arches were originally fitted with timber, he said, but that was changed to metal lacework to meet pool safety laws.

A bar area has also been added at the rear of the bath.

Mr Banks said work on the restoration began shortly before Christmas and was finished a few weeks ago, with the exception of a few finishing touches.

“Everything we did, we basically did by hand… not one machine has been in here,” he said.

He said a few more plants and creepers would be introduced to the area to give it more of the look and feel it held back in 1864.

The bath area will now be used for functions, and it is hoped that in the future, it will be available to guests staying at the villa.

Fortuna Villa head gardener Ian Read, who helped with restoration, said he thought the finished product was “brilliant”.

“I’m looking forward to next summer when we can come out here and cool off,” he said.

Mr Banks paid thanks to the tradespeople who worked on the restoration, as well as St John of God Bendigo Hospital chief executive officer Darren Rogers, who said he made a $10,000 donation towards the project to express his gratitude for the Bankses offering their car park for use during the hospital’s renovation.

“I think it’s magnificent, because last time I saw this, it didn’t look anything like this,” Mr Rogers said.

Next on the agenda is finishing the restoration of the jetty on the property’s lake, as well as the ongoing work inside the 40-room house.

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