Weekly City Spotlight: Bath

bath

Bath, one of Britain’s oldest and most established cities, is located in Somerset and is classed as a World Heritage Site due to its long history dating back to the Iron Age and the Mesolithic period.

History

Bath was first established as a spa town by the Romans, and was known as Aquae Sulis, sometime around 60AD. Evidence of human activity has been found to go back further than this, however, due to archaeological evidence at locations such as Bathampton Down, a flat limestone plateau currently used as a golf course, overlooking Bath and the River Avon. This includes hammerstones, cores, arrowheads and fragments of axes.

Due to Bath’s prominent location near warm springs, it has been known and used as a spa town throughout its history; the Romans did much to turn the then town into a flourishing larger settlement, as they treated the main spring akin to a shrine, such was their appreciation. A temple to the goddess Sulis was constructed between 60-70AD, and despite collapsing years later, remnants have been used in later buildings and enable us to still appreciate the beauty of what the temple would have been.

Bath today is a bustling, modern, busy city, and has been developed heavily since WW2 and the Bath Blitz in April 1942. As over 19,000 buildings were involved in the damage, there has been significant restoration work on structures that were deemed as safe to save, as well as reviews on housing, including the incorporation of Combe Down, Weston and Twerton into Bath in the ‘50s, so more housing could be built. The Bath Spa, Bath Western Riverside Project and SouthGate have also been developed since 2000.

Popular Culture

Due to the history and general prominence of Bath, it has long been used by film & TV directors and novelists, amongst others, as a central location for filming and storylines.

Films & TV

Vanity Fair – 1967, BBC serial

Filmed at Sion Hill’s Royal Crescent, Vanity Fair was met with generally positive reviews by the British public, and was broadcast in America in 1972.

Persuasion – 1970, film

The film adaption of Austen’s novel, Persuasion was filmed primarily at North Parade

Tess of the D’Urbervilles – 2008, BBC

Tess was filmed in a variety of locations throughout the city, including Lacock, Hamswell House, Dyrham Park, Great Chalfield House and Marshfield.

Books

Northanger Abbey & Persuasion – Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey & Persuasion

Despite Austen’s dislike of Bath, she set her Bath as the central location for both Northanger Abbey & Persuasion. Maybe the city grew on her!

Bath Tangle – Georgette Heyer

Set in Bath, this chick lit romance novel surrounds the family of Spenborough and their tangled love lives, hence the title, Bath Tangle.

Death of a Colonial – Bruce Alexander

The sixth book by Alexander, Death of a Colonial was published in 1999 and focuses around a claim on an executed nobleman’s property by an American colonist, and the main character, Sir John, has to investigate the validity of the claim.

Social Media

Visit Bath, the official tourist guide for visitors, has its own accounts across several social media platforms, including Facebook & Twitter.

Famous Faces

Prominent figures associated with Bath include:

Haile Selassie – Regent & later Emperor of Ethiopia, he was exiled by Mussolini and spent 1936-1941 in Bath, in Fairfield House.

Dr William Oliver – invented the Bath Oliver biscuit, was also a founder of the Royal Mineral Water Hospital.

Jane Austen – Famous novelist, but unfortunately did not like the city, and apparently fainted when she heard her family were moving there.

Gabrielle Aplin – current singer/songwriter, Aplin was born in Bath in 1992.

Clive Woodward – former England international team coach, British Olympic Director of Elite Performance, and Bath Rugby team coach

Landmarks

There are many famous historic sites and landmarks throughout the city, dating back in parts to Bath’s earliest history. These include:

Bath Abbey – Bath Abbey, AKA the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Bath, was founded in the 7th century and is still standing today, albeit having undergone extensive rebuild and restoration work through the centuries. It is a Grade I listed building, and visitors flock each year to see the impressive architecture and design, including its fan vaulting, exterior frontage and of course, the yellow Bath Stone it is built from, native to the area.

Royal Mineral Water Hospital – Founded in 1738, the hospital provided care for the impoverished people of the area who were too poor for other establishments. In part, patients flocked to the hospital as it was near to the main bath spa, which was supposed to have healing properties.

Time has changed the function of the hospital, as well as the name; known now as The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Foundation, it specialises in rheumatic disease and rehabilitation.

Bath2

Royal Crescent – No 1 Royal Crescent is a magnificent town house, including servant’s wings that has been extensively refurbished and reopened for tourism in April 2013. Open throughout the year, it currently costs £8.50 per adult for admission, with discounts for families, groups and students, and ticket prices for children and seniors £3.50 and £6.50 respectively.

Part of Royal Crescent’s attraction lies in the charm this old building possesses, and is considered to be one of the finest examples of 18th century architecture in Britain. It has been redecorated to period décor, and includes genuine furnishings and accessories from the Georgian period.

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