Bath, England

The Romans called this city Aqua Sulis in the 1st century, the social elite called it the spa town to visit during the 18th century, and UNESCO called it a World Heritage Site in 1987. You will call Bath a delightful city to enjoy.

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1 Introduction to Bath, England

Bath, England is a city of about 90,000 residents in Somerset County. It is named for the hot springs that soothed the Romans during the 1st century. From the mid-18th century until the early 19th century, those same mineral waters transformed Bath into a major resort destination for the social elite. Filled with Gregorian architecture constructed with beige limestone, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One look at this idyllic view along the River Avon should prompt you to add Bath to your bucket list.

Grand Parade, Bath BA2 4DF, UK
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2 Bell Tower of Bath Abbey in Bath, England

Bath’s first monastery was established around 675. Nearly 300 years later, it was converted to the Order of Saint Benedict, also known as the Black Monks. After the Normans overthrew England in the late 11th century, John of Tours, a physician of William the Conqueror, began building a cathedral when he became the Bishop of Wells and later Bath. It was finished in 1156. After falling into disrepair, the church was rebuilt by the brother team of William and Robert Vertue. Shortly after completion, the Catholic church was surrendered to the crown in 1539 as part of the English Reformation. To this day it remains affiliated with the Church of England. The last major restoration of the Bath Abbey occurred during the mid-19th century under the supervision of Sir George Gilbert Scott. The 161 foot bell tower is a prominent landmark in Bath. Inside the belfry are ten bells. The oldest were cast in 1700.

12, Kingston Buildings, Bath BA1 1LT, UK
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3 Perpendicular Design of Bath Abbey in Bath, England

This southwest view of Bath Abbey allows you to fully appreciate its Perpendicular design. The style is characterized by vertical lines and large arched windows with narrow mullions. On the top level are buttresses among the tracery panels. Above them are a row of graceful Gothic pinnacles. Similar to many other buildings in the city, the façade is constructed from Bath stone giving it a warm, beige glow in the sunlight.

12, Kingston Buildings, Bath BA1 1LT, UK
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4 Front Facade of Bath Abbey in Bath, England

The front of the Bath Abbey is a visual masterpiece dating back to the early 16th century and restored during the 1860s. On either side of the enormous window are carvings of angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder. This symbolizes the struggle to reach Heaven from earth. Flanking the tympanum over the main wooden door are statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The church was dedicated to these two saints when it served the Catholic denomination.

12, Kingston Buildings, Bath BA1 1LT, UK
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5 Fan Vault Inside of Bath Abbey in Bath, England

Above the 211 foot long nave of the Bath Abbey is an incredible fan vault. Each rib has a common curvature emulating from a central stem. This intricate design originated in England. Architect Thomas de Cambridge is credited with creating fan vaulting at the Gloucester Cathedral during the mid-14th century. Gloucester is located less than 50 miles away so it is easy to understand how the elegant style influenced William Vertue when creating the Bath Abbey. He fashioned similar vaults during the early 16th century at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge (the world’s largest fan ceiling) and St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

12, Kingston Buildings, Bath BA1 1LT, UK
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6 Visual Apex of River Avon in Bath, England

The River Avon, also called the Bristol Avon, flows for 75 miles and cradles the east and south edges of Bath’s old town. This is its visual apex. On the right is the Pulteney Bridge, named after its investor Sir William Pulteney. The very wealth 5th Baronet commissioned architect Robert Adam to build this arched span in 1769 so he could easily reach the city from his Bathwick Estate across the river. Its 148 foot length is lined with shops. On the left is a three level, crescent-shaped sluice gate. The current Pulteney Weir became operational in 1972. Yet Bath had two water-powered mills dating back to the early 1600s. From this vantage point you can also appreciate the Newmarket Row, Victoria Art Gallery and the tower of St Michael’s Without.

Beazer Maze Spring Gardens Rd, Bath BA2 6PW, UK
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7 Victoria Art Gallery and Bath Markets in Bath, England

Beneath the lead dome is the Victoria Art Gallery, named in honor of Her Majesty who died in 1901, about a year after the building opened as a library. Since 1990, the museum has used the space designed by John Brydon to display paintings, sculptures and other artworks from primarily British artists dating back 300 years. On the left is the Bath Markets. Formally named Newmarket Row, it was built riverside in 1775 and reconstructed almost 90 years later. Behind it is the Bath Guildhall Market. In the foreground is the River Avon and on the right is the Pulteney Bridge.

Bridge St, Bath BA2 4AT, UK
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8 Walking Paths in Bath, England

Bath is an ideal city for walkers. The most popular route starts at Pulteney Bridge, follows the west riverbank around Parade Gardens, crosses the North Parade Bridge and circles back along the River Avon. Or continue following the Skyline trail designed by the National Trust. This three mile, 1 ½ hour walk brings you by several gardens and historic landmarks.

Beazer Maze Spring Gardens Rd, Bath BA2 6PW, UK
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9 Empire Hotel in Bath, England

When the Empire Hotel opened adjacent to Orange Grove along the River Avon in 1901, it was a grand experience to be a guest. The Renaissance design by Major Charles Edward Davis, then the City Architect, was commissioned by Alfred Holland. It features an octagonal tower on one end and a plaster, allegory relief on the other. Inside, the first floor decor had coffered ceilings, Corinthian columns and fireplaces together with bars, a drawing room and a dining room. In 1966, the building was converted into apartments.

4 Grand Parade, Bath BA2 4DF, UK
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10 Parade Gardens in Bath, England

The Parade Gardens is a 2.5 acre, municipal park located between Bath’s major landmarks and the River Avon. For a small fee you can enjoy the riverside lawns and flowerbeds for picnics, sunning or a respite from sightseeing. Concerts are regularly performed in the bandstand during the summer months. This historic land is listed with the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens because in 1610 the greenspace was the Abbey Orchard. 100 years later it became Harrison’s Walk. Later in the 18th century the park was expanded into North Parade (shown here) and South Parade before becoming the Institution Gardens in 1824.

Grand Parade & N Parade, Bath BA2 4DF, UK
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11 The Circus in Bath, England

John Wood the Elder was an enterprising architect. He purchased a large tract of land circa 1750 to pursue his dream of creating row houses shaped as three grand, semi-circular buildings called The Circus. Together they form an impressive oval of Palladian Revival architecture. The facades have three types of column orders accented with a frieze border containing over 500 different symbols. The black railings define basement patios. Unfortunately, he died soon after the project began. His son finished this wonderful architecture in 1768.

22 The Circus Bath BA1 2EU, UK
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12 Royal Crescent in Bath, England

Before finishing The Circus in 1768, John Wood the Younger began building another impressive row of 30 townhouses nearby called the Royal Crescent. This splendid Gregorian architecture features over 100 Ionic columns. Each stands about 47 feet tall. Viewing it from Royal Victoria Park is the only way to appreciate its magnificence. The landscaping in front is called a ha-ha. Its recessed channel (the horizontal dark line) prevented 18th century livestock from approaching.

14 Royal Cres, Bath BA1 2LR, UK
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13 Georgian Architecture on Broad Street in Bath, England

When Bath became a spa town for aristocrats starting in the late 16th century and extending into the 1700s, many of the buildings were timbered. In response to the city’s increased popularity, an urban renewal was launched with Gregorian period architecture called Palladian Revival. This style is characterized by symmetry with classical features. These buildings on Broad Street are typical with their connected facades of beige limestone. After 1800, the city lost its favor among the wealthy yet had been transformed into architectural uniformity.

42 Broad St, Bath BA1 5LP, UK
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14 Oldest Pub in Bath, England

A cold pint is often the perfect way to end a hot day of sightseeing. Like most English cities, there are plenty of bars available. But if you like history served with your ale, try Saracens Head Tavern. Founded in 1713, it claims to be Bath’s oldest. Its most famous customer was a young writer who sipped while working on his first serialized novel in 1836. His pseudonym was Boz. You probably know him better as Charles Dickens and his book The Pickwick Papers.

42 Broad St, Bath BA1 5LP, UK
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15 Bath Assembly Rooms in Bath, England

Another Georgian building designed by John Wood the Younger is the Assembly Rooms. This venue for balls, concerts and other high society events opened in 1771. The 100 foot Ball Room is the largest of its four halls. At the end of the 18th century, it accommodated up to 1,200 dancing quests twice a week. The others rooms are the Great Octagon, Tea Room and Card Room. Also inside is the Fashion Museum. This historic property is now owned by the National Trust and managed by the local council.

Bath Assembly Rooms, Bennett St, Bath BA1 2QH, UK
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16 Grand Pump Room in Bath, England

The Grand Pump Room was designed by Thomas Baldwin but completed by architect John Palmer in 1799. Inside is an enormous 85 by 46 foot hall with a 34 foot ceiling. It was created to impress while entertaining locals and visitors in luxury and style. This neoclassical, north colonnade features four Corinthian capitals beneath a pediment with a Roman laurel wreath relief. Now serving as a restaurant, the Grade I listed building is located in the Abbey Church Yard adjacent to the Roman Baths. This ancient spa was discovered while constructing the Pump Room.

The Pump Room Abbey Chambers, Church St, Avon, Bath BA1 1LZ, UK
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17 Theatre Royal in Bath, England

During the 18th century, patrons of the performing arts attended Orchid Street Theatre. This was replaced in 1805 by the Theatre Royal. The new venue was allowed to use the word Royal based on permission granted to its predecessor in 1768. This façade on Sawclose Street with the United Kingdom’s coat of arms was added post a devastating fire in 1862. Another refurbishment occurred in 2010 after Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, helped to raise ₤3 million. Major productions are staged at the Main House. Smaller performances use the Ustinov Studio. The Egg is reserved for children’s shows.

Saw Cl, Bath BA1 1ET, UK
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18 Hopefully Sculpture in Bath, England

The Ustinov Studio is the intimate stage of the Theatre Royal. Its namesake is Sir Peter Alexander Ustinov, an accomplished filmmaker, writer and actor who twice won an Academy Award. He also helped raise funds for the studio’s creation in 1997. Above the entrance is this nearly 12 foot, winged figure created by his son, Igor Ustinov.

34 Monmouth St, Bath BA1 2AN, UK
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19 Bath Stone Facades in Bath, England

Rarely is a city’s architecture as consistent as it is in Bath. As discussed earlier, most buildings were constructed during the Georgian era. This period from 1714 through 1830 corresponds to when four Great Britain monarchs from the House of Hanover ruled: King George I, II, III and IV. Another common denominator is the use of Bath Stone. The oolite limestone with a beige hue was all harvested from a local, 15 acre site named the Combe Down Quarry and Bathampton Down Mines. These quarries were owned by Postmaster General and city major Ralph Allen. As you can imagine, this mining operation made him very wealthy. The Garrick’s Head Pub is named after the Garrick’s Head Tavern. This adjacent property occupied a 1720 house before making way for the building of the Theatre Royal.

8 St. Johns Place, City Centre, Bath BA1 1ET, UK
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20 Christ Church in Bath, England

Prior to the 19th century, most Anglican churches in England followed a policy of pew rents. This required parishioners to pay for their seating in order to attend services. When Christ Church opened in 1798, it was the first in Bath and one of the earliest within the Church of England to abandon this practice. This Neo-Gothic design on Julian Road was drafted by John Palmer while he was also the City Architect.

4 Brunswick Pl Bath BA1 2RQ, UK
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21 Circulating Library and Reading Room in Bath, England

There were about 600 circulating libraries across England by the end of the 18th century. Most towns were lucky to have one. But Bath had ten to serve the growing influx of leisure visitors. The most elaborate was on Milson Street. James Marshall and Samuel Pratt opened their reading room in 1787. It catered to the elite and famous including royalty, nobles, knights plus military and religious leaders. As tourism declined in Bath, however, so did the circulating libraries. By 1820, many of the original establishments were gone.

44 Milsom St Bath BA1 1DN, UK
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22 Jane Austin Centre in Bath, England

Jane Austin was a writer of romance novels portraying the lives of the late-18th century English gentry. One of the most popular is Pride and Prejudice about Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters pursuing a better life by courting two eligible bachelors. While living in Bath, the author featured the town in two of her novels: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. You will learn a lot more while visiting the Jane Austin Centre on Gay Street. Enjoy the tour of this lovely Georgian townhouse then sit at the Regency Tea Room while women in period costumes serve you cakes.

40 Gay St, Bath BA1 2NT, UK
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23 The Guildhall in Bath, England

Most cities in the United Kingdom once had guildhalls where tradesmen conducted their meetings. Bath had two successive ones on this site near the river dating back to the Renaissance Era. This third version opened in 1778 using the design of architect Thomas Attwood. Notice the frieze among the Ionic columns. The figures are allegories for various trades. In the center is Lady Justice, the Roman goddess representing law. This Gregorian building currently houses Bath’s archives and Register Office. It is also available to rent for special events.

Bath BA1 5AW, United Kingdom
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24 Holy Trinity Church in Bath, England

St Mary’s Chapel previously stood here on Chapel Row. Since 1874, this corner lot adjacent to Queen Square has been occupied by Holy Trinity Church. Its French Gothic style faced with Bath stone was designed by the architectural firm Wilson, Wilcox and Wilson. Since its merger with St Michael’s Church, this beautiful edifice has been empty.

9 Chapel Row Bath BA1, UK
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25 Old Post Office in Bath, England

This semi-circular entrance on New Bond Street served Bath’s Post Office from 1822 – 1854. It is a great example of skillfully repurposing architecture. The beauty of its neoclassical façade has been preserved. Inside it was transformed into a bright and airy shopping space as modern as the designer fashions sold by retailer Jigsaw. If you would like to learn many fascinating facts and stories about the English postal system, take time to visit the nearby Bath Postal Museum on Green Street.

24 New Bond St, Bath BA1 1BA, UK
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26 St Michael’s Church in Bath, England

This tall Gothic tower with lancet windows by architect G. P. Manners was built in 1837 for St Michael’s Church. It replaced three processors on this Broad Street site. The first was constructed in 973. The second – known as St Michael’s Without – was built circa 1400 and located just outside of the medieval town walls near North Gate. The third had a Gregorian style by John Harvey and was finished in 1743. This Church of England parish resumed its prior name after merging with Holy Trinity Queen’s Square in 2013. St Michael’s Without is dedicated to Michael the Archangel.

1 Broad St, Bath BA1 5LJ, UK
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27 Sally Lunn Eating House in Bath, England

Built in 1482, this quaint building on Parade Passage claims to be Bath’s oldest house. That is reason enough to visit. Peer into the window for the main reason: a stack of warm Sally Lunn Buns. According to folklore, a young French immigrant named Solange Luyon began baking these teacakes here in 1680. They became a culinary rage during the 18th and early 19th centuries and praised by the likes of Charles Dickens and famous Parisian chief Marie-Antoine Carême. So step inside the Sally Lunn Eating House and give your taste buds a treat.

4 N Parade Passage Bath BA1 1NX, UK
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28 World War II Damages in Bath, England

As Bath lost its appeal as a spa destination during the second half of the 19th century, the town lost its motivation to maintain its legacy architecture. That trend was partially reversed when the Bath Preservation Trust was established in 1934. Then World War II broke out. During the Baedeker Blitz of April, 1942, Luftwaffe air raids destroyed over 300 buildings. By the end of the war, the city demolished more than 1,000. To Bath’s credit, they typically rebuilt in the Georgian era, classical styles that had become their trademark. This is the Bath Academy of English. Across the street is Queen Square where a 1,100 pound bomb exploded during the Bath Blitz.

24 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HX, UK
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