Bath a brief history

I was happy to find out that Bath would be the venue for our February walk in the past history walk.  I  grew up  between Bristol and Bath and my father went to school in the city so I have watched  Bath change over the years.  Jane Austen would probably recognise the centre  but there is also a side to the city the tourists miss.   It has a large student population.  Bath university is particularly well known for sport and many  athletes train there.

We met for our walk at the back of Bath bus station.  If you plan to visit Bath I suggest arriving by bus or train as parking is very difficult. There are several park and ride schemes nearby and the main bus station and train station are close to the city attractions.

Bath is the only English city to be given UNESCO  world heritage status. For the locals this is a mixed blessing. I remember when I was at University one of my history lecturers asked me if it was like living in a museum. In summer it can be difficult to move through the city because of the number of tourists but they also bring  us much prosperity.

This walk was a brief introduction to the history of Bath which we hope to explore in more detail later.  I have provided a potted version here.

The Romans

There is a Celtic legend that the hot springs at Bath were discovered by a swineherd named Bladud who found that the hot mud cured a skin disease his pigs had been suffering from. He later became a tribal leader and established a shrine in Bath to the goddess Sulla. Although there is no evidence for his existence there are a lot of iron age settlements around Bath. Bath itself is supposed to be built in the crater of an extinct volcano.

Bath guidebooks usually date the history  back to the Romans who were drawn to the hot spa water and built a magnificent Bath Complex. to enjoy it. Much of this survives or has been restored though unfortunately you can not swim there any longer. You can taste the water but be warned it tastes vile.

Another reason why we met behind the bus station is that it is close to the route of the Roman Fosseway a road between Exeter and Lincoln. Here the Romans built a bridge to cross the river Avon. As well as enjoying hot baths the Romans were attracted to the area to mine lead from the nearby Mendip hills.

The Medieval Period

After the Romans left Bath seems to have declined in importance.  However the magnificent Bath abbey was built during the medieval period. The   medieval legacy is preserved in the names of the roads, Eastgate, Southgate, Westgate and Northgate though the walls and gates have disappeared.

The Georgians

Bath markets itself as a Georgian city.  In the 18th century, Bath stone was quarried from the nearby hills to build the famous crescents.  The aristocracy would descend on Bath to take the waters or play cards.  This was vividly described by Jane Austen, perhaps Bath’s most famous resident who does not seem to have enjoyed her stay much. If you visit the assembly rooms and nearby fashion museum you can take afternoon tea and children can dress up.  You can  imagine yourself in a scene from one of her books or visit the Jane Austen centre.

A couple wearing 18th century clothing.
A couple dressed in costume for the Jane Austen festival.

During this period William Herschel who had been an organist in Bath discovered the planet Uranus. You can visit his house and see the telescopes he made.

The Royal crescent Bath is built of yellow Bath stone.
The famous Royal crescent.

Visit Bath

Pulteney Bridge was built by Sir William Pulteney close to the site of the old Roman bridge to enable development on the other side of the river.

The Modern city

Bath was linked to Reading by the Kennett and Avon canal and later Isambard Kingdom Brunel built his famous Great Western Railway between Bristol and London with a station in Bath.

Bath was badly bombed during the second world war.  It was not considered a target but the Germans carried out what became known as the Baedeker raids. They targeted cities given a high rating in the Baedeker guide books in retaliation for British bombing raids on Germany. However it has been largely rebuilt using Bath stone.

Bath has built a new spa complex where visitors can swim in the hot mineral waters just as the Romans did.

Visitors swimming in the rooftop Bath.
The new rooftop Bath at the Thermae complex. Bath abbey is in the background.

Photos for this blog post were used with permission from VisitBath

This post is linked to grammy’s grid and grandma’s briefs, both sites for blogging grandmothers who are happy to welcome new members.

If you enjoyed this post you might like two national trust houses to visit near Bath.

Christmas lunch at Avon Valley Railway Station

20181211_111011This year our French group decided to have Christmas lunch at Bitton railway Station.

This railway was part of my childhood.  I remember sitting in boring lessons at school and watching trains pass along the line. The Avon valley railway line which was part of the Midland rail network ran from Bristol to Bath and connected up with the Somerset and Dorset railway known affectionally as the S and D or slow and dirty. It took people on day trips to the seaside, to places like Bournemouth and Weymouth.

However in 1960’s the government decided that the car was the future and closed a lot of branch lines including ours. For many years the tracks and stations were allowed to decay. However we were fortunate our line between Bristol and Bath was turned into a cycle track by Sustrans. The thirteen mile path is very popular with both cyclists and walkers and also provides an important wildlife corridor.

A group of volunteers bought Bitton railway station which dates from the 1860’s and decided to reopen part of the track. They now run trains over a three mile stretch including crossing the river Avon. The volunteers host special events such as Santa Specials, Thomas the Tank Engine days, murder mysteries and Grandparents days.  If you want a present for the man in your life they can even learn to drive a steam train.

The Railway Buffet

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The volunteers  also reopened the station buffet and use two converted 1950’s railway carriages  named Margaret and Rose to serve meals. Our U3A French group decided that it would make an unusual venue for our Christmas meal.

We enjoyed a very good  lunch with all the trimmings in Rose and we were even able to order a glass of wine  If you are visiting the area at other times of the year you can get a good range of reasonably priced snacks and drinks.  You can also enjoy a full English breakfast followed by a walk along the river towards Bath.  For locals it is a popular place to take visitors. For the more energetic the cycle track leads to the former Green Park Station in Bath which now houses a number of stalls where you can buy snacks or crafts. The station has free car parking.

On a personal note I am pleased to report that 2018 was a very good year for me. As well as starting this blog, Bill and I celebrated our ruby wedding after surviving 40 years of married life, our youngest son Christopher married his school friend Lorna and our second son Martin and his wife Kirsty presented us with our first grand daughter. I wonder what 2019 will bring.