I belong to a walk in the past, history walking group and last Sunday we explored Georgian Bath. Bath which is a UNESCO world heritage site still markets itself as a Georgian city. In the 18th century the aristocracy flocked here to take the waters, to gamble or to find a suitable spouse. Jane Austen who lived in the city for a few years vividly described life in regency Bath in books such as “Northanger Abbey” .
We met in North Parade terrace a fashionable street which overlooks Parade gardens. In the 18th century the idle rich paraded here in all their finery. Now it is a pleasant place to sit and watch the world go by. You can hire a deckchair and buy an ice cream.
We were admiring the houses and one of the owners asked if we would like to look inside. He seemed quite happy to let all twenty five of us plus two dogs climb upstairs to admire the view.
Much of Bath was designed by two architects, a father and son, John Wood the elder and John Wood the younger. They were free masons and they used a lot of freemasonry symbols. It is said that the Royal crescent and the Circus, (a ring of houses) represent the sun and the moon. They were certainly keen to bring the countryside into the city and luckily the green spaces have been preserved. Bath has very strict planning laws and all buildings still have to be made from the honey coloured Bath stone quarried from the nearby hills. The Georgian developers destroyed most of the medieval city in their rush to build Palladian houses where the rich and important could lodge for the season. Number 1 Royal crescent has been furnished and decorated in 18th century style and is now a museum.
Our walk took in Queen’s square with its famous obelisk. This reflects the interest in Egypt in the period.
High society in Georgian Bath
Richard Nash who became known as Beau Nash was the self appointed Master of ceremonies for many years. he kept a list of the 500 most important visitors and controlled invitations to balls and soirees. He also helped to control the gambling and became very rich on the proceeds before loosing his fortune at the tables.
We also looked in the Pump room where visitors used to take the water . You can now get an expensive afternoon tea there and imagine yourself in a recency novel.
The Assembly Rooms, one of Bath’s finest Georgian buildings, was purpose built in 1771 for a particular 18th century form of entertainment: the assembly; ‘a stated and general meeting of the polite persons of both sexes for the sake of conversation, gallantry, news and play’. Guests would gather in the rooms in the evening for balls, concerts and other social functions, or simply to play cards and socialise. (National trust). it now houses a fashion museum which is well worth a visit. We went inside to admire the magnificent glass chandeliers.
Bath’s fortunes declined in the 19th century. Queen Victoria was not as keen on idle pursuits and preferred to holiday on the Isle of Wight or in Scotland and later seaside resorts such as Brighton became more popular.
This post follows on from a previous Bath walk
It has been added to a link party for blogging grandmothers.
If you want to find out more information about visiting Bath here is a link to the Bath tourist office.
The Mayor’s guides offer daily free walking tours of Bath. They start at 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. from Abbey Square.
Some of the photos for this post were used with permission from visit Bath.