I first visited Bath, Somerset, England when I was 21. Something about the combination of magnificent Georgian architecture, rolling hills landscape, historic Roman baths and a pretty 13th century Abby that is pure elegance has me returning for my fourth visit in June, with my Mum and her great friend of 58 years, for their first visit.
The City of Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
1} BATH ABBY
For over 1250 years people have visited this holy place next to the hot water springs. The Bath Abby has gone through many transformations and been rebuilt many times, more recently – renovation during the 1820s-30s included adding flying buttresses, and further restoration in the 1860s. Built in the Perpendicular Gothic style in a cruciform plan in Bath Stone. This location was founded in the 7th century as a Saxon Convent, has been a Benedictine Monastary The Benedictine community dissolved in 1539.
The fan vault ceiling is spectacular and has been restored in 1991 to its original beauty since my first visit (it was very dark previously). Designed by brothers Robert and William Vertue, who also designed similar vaulting in Westminster Abbey Henry VII Chapel. (early 1500s)
There are 52 windows in the building – giving great natural light – as they take up 80% of the wall space.
Detail Fan Vaulting
View to East Window of nave.
Stained Glass East Window and alter. The window includes a depiction of Nativity and was presented to the church in 1872.
Original detail from the late 15th century during monastic time and prior to later restoration work – Jacobs Ladder with angels ascending to Heaven. I could not find any written reference to this but from my very first visit I remembered one angel is heading down the ladder as maybe a stone carvers sense of humour – you can spot him here.
2} ROMAN BATHS
Built in the 1st century AD by the Romans who used the hot springs as a thermal spa. Considered one of the most important Roman remains north of Italy.
The Great Bath. A massive, steaming pool filled with hot springs water, lined with 45 sheets of lead was the centrepiece of the Roman Baths bathing complex and was originally in an enormous building with tall vaulted ceilings.
Victorian statues of Roman Emperors and governors of Britain on the Terrace overlooking the Baths. Carved in 1894 for the grand opening of the Roman baths in 1897.
Bath reflects two great eras of human history – Roman and Georgian.
Temple Pediment – one of only two classical temples from Roman Britain. The Goddess Sulis Minerva statue was inside the temple. Carved in Bath stone, it is thought to be a Gorgon’s Head, a powerful symbol of the goddess Sulis Minerva. A projector is set and shows what the complete pediment would look like.
The gilt head bronze head of Goddess Sulis Minerva is one of the most well known discoveries from Roman Britain. Discovered in 1727, it was an early indication of what a magnificent Roman site this was. Slightly larger than life size indicates what an imposing sight this sculpture was and likely was located in the Temple next to the Sacred Spring.
A view of Bath Abbey in the background.
3} THE PUMP ROOM AFTERNOON TEA
The Pump Room – built in 1790s, replacing a smaller building from 1706. Inspired by the fragments of the Roman temple, its Neo classical style became the destination for high society.
Aristocrats came here to drink the water and believed in the curative powers of the hot springs. Here is where you can taste the spring water from the marble vase over 200 years later. It contains 43 minerals and has been used for curative purposes for over 2000 years.
The Grand Pump Room was built in the 1790s and has been mentioned by famous authors novels such as Jane Austen. The Restaurant is award winning and afternoon tea a must.
4} PULTENEY BRIDGE
One of only four bridges in the world to have shoppers across its full span on both sides. Robert Adams original drawings are preserved in the Sir John Soanes Museum. Adams envisioned an elegant structure similar to Pont Vecchio and Ponte di Rialto. Completed in 1774 the bridge is 148′ long crossing the River Avon.
Beautiful shops line both sides of the street and in the 20th century several projects to preserve and return it it to its original appearance have taken place after alterations and floods over time.
Great stop for coffee on the bridge.
View of River Avon from Pulteney Bridge Coffee Shop.
Making a plan over coffee.
5) FASHION MUSEUM AND ASSEMBLY ROOMS
The Assembly rooms in Bath were designed by John Woods the Younger in 1769. In the 18th century to gather for entertainment such as dance, listen to music, play cards (except on Sunday) or drink tea was referred to as “Assembly” for which these rooms were purpose built. In 1963 they became home to the Fashion Museum of Bath which is internationally renowned for what is considered one of the finest fashion collections from the 1700s to present day.
The Fashion Museum has over 100,000 artifacts – and even if fashion is not entirely your thing there are items from every decade and seeing the fabrics and workmanship and a glimpse into living in those eras is interesting. I loved these silk and embroidered Art Deco gowns and yay no corset!
These look straight out of Sense and Sensibility. The Fashion Museum features more than 160 fully dressed figures like this that includes shoes, coats, bonnets and accessories. There is a fun dress up area for kids with a photo wall.
Look at the beads and real pearls on this beauty, can you imagine how heavy this would be?
Assembly room – this is the ball room, and there is also a Tea Room, Octagon Room and Card Room. There is now a lovely cafe with a courtyard and gift shop here, and the Ball room is still used as a popular venue today, 250 years later.
6} PRIORY PARK
Magnificent 18th century landscape garden with sweeping views of Bath.
This Palladian bridge is one of only four in the world, this one created by local entrepreneur Ralph Allen, with original landscape design by poet Alexander Pope planting 55000 trees framing the slope, and later on advice from landscape architect “Capability” Brown. Built in 1755, Ralph Allen was a wealthy business man who improved the Postal System by completely revamping the routes and creating a new network of postal roads. He went on to buy up all of the small, local mines of Bath limestone at a time of a building boom.
Original grand home of Ralph Allen designed by architect John Wood the Elder in the 1730s, the Palladian style mansion (showing off the Bath Stone) is now a college, but part of the the property was acquired the National Trust. A valley with views and woodlands and meadows, a lovely property.
After Ralph Allen’s death in 1764, with no heir, the estate changed hand a few times and the garden declined and was overgrown. The National Trust has managed the 26 acres below the mansion since 1993, and have been restoring it ever since.
It is a bit of a trek from town centre if you do not wish to walk far, but either a short taxi ride or a stop on the HOHO.
My recent video inside the Roman. Baths.
7) ROYAL CRESCENT AND THE CIRCUS
Built between 1767. and 1774, the Royal Crescent is considered one of the finest achievements of eighteenths century urban architecture. With its famous Palladian facade. John Wood the Younger designed the great curved facade with ionic pillars, Each original purchaser bought a length of facade and hired their own builder and Architect to build the house behind. Many notable residents have lived here over the years.
The 500′ long Crescent is a mix of owners, unit 15/16 the 5* Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa.
The Circus was designed by John Wood, the Elder in 1954 and is comprised of 3 curved townhouse buildings forming a circle. Wood died just as construction was set to begin, so built by John Wood the Younger. Wood designed the Circus the same diameter as Stonehenge. It is possible that the Circus and the Crescent are connected by a Ley line and represent the sun and the moon ad Wood was interested in the druids and believed the area was the centre of druid activity (Stonehenge is only 1 hour away).
8) No. 1 Royal Crescent
No. 1 is the first house to be built in the Royal Crescent and was originally a luxurious accommodation for aristocratic visitors to Bath. Filled with authentic furniture, paintings and textiles of the Georgian era, a great opportunity to see interior design of the time as an historic home museum.
BONUS THE IVY I had a great meal at the Ivy Brasserie in Bath and recommend it – I loved the interior design inside the former bank. Described as a “contemporary British menu”.
Bath is a lovely walking city on the River Avon and worth it to be closer to charming town centre.
For more information … Visit Bath
My name is Sue Womersley and I am an Interior Designer from White Rock, BC Canada, sharing my love of design, architecture, history, photography and travel, now celebrating 10 years of sporadic writing.