HYPOCAUST (Gr. WTOKCIUOTOI' : wro, beneath, and Kavdv, to burn), the term given to the chamber formed under the floors of the Roman baths, through which the hot air from the furnace passed, sometimes to a single flue, as in the case of the tepidarium, but in the calidarium and sweating-room to a series of flues placed side by side forming the lining of the walls. The floor of the hot-air chamber consisted of tiles, 2 ft. square, laid on a bed of concrete; on this a series of dwarf piers 2 ft. high were built of 8-in. square tiles placed about 16 in. apart, which carried the floor of the hall or room; this floor was formed of a bed of concrete covered with layers of pounded bricks and marble cement, on which the marble pavement in slabs or tesserae was laid. In colder countries, as for instance in Germany and England, the living rooms were all heated in a similar way, and round Treves (Trier) both systems have been found in two or three Roman villas, with the one flue for the ordinary rooms and several wall flues for the hot baths. In England these hypocausts are found in every Roman settlement, and the chief interest in these is centred in the magnificent mosaic pavements with which the principal rooms were laid. Many of the pavements found in London and elsewhere have been preserved in the British or the Guildhall museums; and in some of the provincial towns, such as Leicester and Lincoln, they remain in situ many feet below the present level of the town.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)