- For alternate meanings see Bath (disambiguation)
Bath is a city in southwest England, most famous for its baths fed by three hot springs. The city was first recorded as a Roman spa, though verbal tradition suggests it was known before then. The waters from its spring were considered to be a cure for many afflictions. From Elizabethan to Georgian times it was a resort city for the wealthy. As a result of its popularity during the latter period, the city contains many fine examples of Georgian architecture, particularly The Royal Crescent. The city has a population of over 90,000 and is a World Heritage Site.
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Bath is located at 51° 22′ 34″ N 2° 21′ 35″ W1. It is approximately 25 kilometres (15 miles) southeast of the larger city and port of Bristol, to which it is linked by the A4 road, and is a similar distance south of the M4 motorway. Its railway station, Bath Spa, lies on the Great Western Railway, the main line between Bristol and London as well as the railway line linking Cardiff with Portsmouth. Bath itself is located in the southern Cotswolds—a range of hills in England.
Bath is centred on the bottom of the Avon Valley; the hills which surround and make up the city achieve a maximum altitude of 238 metres (780 feet) on the Lansdown plateau. It covers an area of 29 km²2 (11 sq. miles) this compares to the 1579 km² (609 sq. miles) of Greater London, the 105 km² (41 sq. miles) of Paris and the 786 km² (303 sq. miles) of New York City. Due to the hilly nature of Bath it is popular among ramblers, and is noted for its steep streets. The alluvial plain narrows into the city (greatest in width at Bathampton at 0.8 kilometres or 0.5 miles)—which causes the city and its architecture to have to climb up the surrounding hills. The flood plain is at an altitude of 17 metres (56 feet). The valley floor holds the River Avon which runs through the centre of the city—though the river was a naturally tidal, unnavigable body of water consisting of a series of braided streams which were numerously broken up by swamps and ponds—a series of weirs have tamed it into a calm, voluminous river. Thanks to the connection of the river to the Kennet and Avon Canal in 1810 the waterway is popular among users of narrow boats—and was historically an important water route to London. The canal has recently been restored in the local area, and leaves the Avon at Bath.
The climate of Bath is generally temperate, although significantly warmer than some other locations at similar latitude, such as central Poland, due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. It is, statistically, averagely drier and warmer than more northerly parts of the United Kingdom. The prevailing winds are southwesterly, from the North Atlantic Current. More than 50% of the days are overcast. There are few natural hazards, although there can be strong winds and floods, especially in winter.
In 2003 the annual mean temperature was 10.3°C, with extremes at 14.2°C and 6.5°C (50.5°F, 57.5°F and 43.7°F, respectively). There were 1644.9 hours of sunshine, and 957.4 millimetres of rainfall. The temperatures, sunshine duration and rainfall are higher than the United Kingdom average (9.5°C, or 49°F, 1587.4 hours and 901.5 millimetres, respectively).
The Liberal Democrat Don Foster is the Member of Parliament for Bath. He defeated Conservative MP Chris Patten in 1992. This was perhaps the most notable result of the United Kingdom general election, 1992 as Chris Patten in the post of Conservative Party Chairman (and member of the Cabinet) played a major part in getting the Conservative government of John Major re-elected but failed to defend his marginal parliamentary seat in Bath.
Historically part of the county of Somerset, it became part of Avon when that county was created in 1974. Since the abolition of Avon in 1996, it has formed the main centre of the Unitary Authority of Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES). Bath’s city council was abolished in 1996; the ceremonial functions of the city including mayoralty are maintained by the Charter Trustees; all those B&NES councillors for wards within the city limits. There have been calls to set up a parish council for Bath—but it would be larger than any established previously and may be impractical.
According to the 2001 UK Census carried out by the Office for National Statistics branch of the UK Government, Bath, and the immediate surrounding area, has a population of 169 040 with an average age of 39.9 (the national average being 38.6). According to the same statistics Bath is overwhelmingly populated by people of a white ethnic background, 97.2%—this is significantly higher than the national average of 90.9%. Other ethnic groups in Bath, in order of size, are mixed-race at 1%, asian at 0.5% and black at 0.5% (the national averages are 1.3%, 4.6% and 2.1%, respectively).
The city is accordingly Christian at 71%, with no other religion achieving a figure higher than 0.5%. These figures generally compare with the national averages—though the non-religious percentage of 19.5% is significantly higher than the national average (14.8%). Bath identifies as healthy—with only 7.4% of the populace identifying as "not healthy" in the last 12 months (compared to the national average of 9.2%); there is a somewhat significant difference between the national average for having had a long-term illness (18.2%) and Bath's percentage of 15.8%.
The site of the main spring was treated as a shrine by the Celts, and dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva. However the name Sulis continued to be used after the Roman invasion, leading to the town's Roman name of Aquae Sulis (literally, "the waters of Sulis").
During the Roman occupation of Britain increasingly grand temples and bathing complexes were built, including the Great Bath. Rediscovered gradually from the 18th century onward, they have become one of the city's main attractions. Toward the end of the Roman occupation, the settlement around the baths was given defensive walls.
After Britannia left the Roman Empire urban life declined across the country. Though the great Roman baths at Bath fell into disrepair, there is evidence of some continued use of the hot springs. The Anglo-Saxon name for the place was Baðum, Baðan or Baðon, meaning 'at the baths', from which the present name comes. From its Saxon name comes the theory that Bath is the location of the Battle of Mons Badonicus, where King Arthur led the Britons to victory over the Saxons. Better documented is the Battle of Deorham, in 577, in which Ceawlin of Wessex drove a wedge to the sea and split the Romano-British forces, leading to the fall of Bath soon after.
In 675 Osric, King of the Hwicce, established a monastic house at Bath which probably used the walled area as its precinct. King Offa of Mercia gained this monastery in 781 and rebuilt the church, which was dedicated to St. Peter. Bath had become a royal possession. The old Roman street pattern having been lost, King Alfred laid out the town afresh, leaving its southeastern quadrant as the abbey precinct.
King William Rufus granted the city to a royal physician, John of Tours, who became Bishop of Wells and Abbot of Bath in 1088, with permission to move the see of Somerset from Wells to Bath. Bishop John therefore became the first Bishop of Bath. He planned and began a much larger church as his cathedral, to which was attached a priory, with the bishop's palace beside it. New baths were built around the three springs.
Later bishops preferred Wells, which regained cathedral status jointly with Bath. By the 15th century Bath Cathedral was badly dilapidated. Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells, decided in 1500 to rebuild it on a smaller scale. The new cathedral was completed just a few years before Bath Priory was dissolved in 1539.
Henry VIII considered the cathedral redundant and it was allowed to become derelict, but it was restored as the city's parish church in the Elizabethan period, when the city revived as a spa. The baths were improved and the city began to attract the aristocracy in the bathing seasons. Bath was granted city status in 1590.
There was much rebuilding in the Stuart period, but this was eclipsed by the massive expansion of the city in Georgian times. The old town within the walls was largely rebuilt also. This was a response to the continuing demand for elegant accommodation for the city's fashionable visitors, for whom Bath had become a pleasure resort as well as a spa. The builders John Wood, father and son, laid out the new quarters in rational streets and squares whose identical facades gave an impression of palatial scale and classical decorum. The creamy gold of Bath stone further unified the city, much of it from the Limestone mines under Combe Down which were owned by Ralph Allen (1694–1764). He wanted to advertise the unique quality of his quarried limestone, and therefore commissioned architect John Wood to build him a country house on his Prior Park estate, and being a shrewd politician dominated civic affairs by becoming mayor several times.
The early 18th century saw Bath acquire its first purpose-built theatre, pump room and assembly rooms. As Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash presided over the city's social life from 1705 until his death in 1761. He drew up a code of behaviour for public entertainments. However the city declined as a fashionable resort in the 19th century.
During the 18th century Bath served as an extremely fashionable cultural hub attracting members of the middle and upper classes from all over the country. This provided the city with the finance and incentive to undertake large cultural developments. It was during this time that Bath's Theatre Royal was first built as well as architectural triumphs including Lansdown Crescent, The Royal Crescent, The Circus and Pulteney Bridge. Despite the cultural decline during the 19th century these fixed structures provided, and even necessitated, a lasting cultural tradition within the city.
Today, Bath holds three theatres—Theatre Royal, Ustinov Studio and Rondo Theatre—attracting internationally renowned companies and directors including Peter Cook. The city also has a long standing musical tradition; Bath Abbey is home to the recently renovated Klais Organ and is the largest concert venue in the city seeing about 20 concerts and 26 organ recitals each year. The city holds both the Bath International Music Festival and Mozartfest every year. Other festivals include the annual Bath Film Festival.
The city is home to the Victoria Art Gallery, Museum of East Asian Art, and The Holburne Museum of Art; as well as the museums The Bath Postal Museum, The Museum of Costume, The Jane Austen Centre and of course the Roman Baths.
Bath in the Arts
Many members of English culture and society visited the city of Bath during its time as a cultural hub. Though most merely visited the city some stayed to live there and others went further and included it in their works. Perhaps the best known resident of Bath was Jane Austen who lived in the city from 1801 until 1806. Despite a legacy marked by The Jane Austen Centre and a city walk based around the author, she never liked the city, writing to her sister Cassandra "It will be two years tomorrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape". After leaving the city she wrote two novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (written 1816, published 1818), which are largely set in the city and feature topical descriptions of taking the waters, social life, and cultural resources such as music recitals. Charles Dickens' novel Pickwick Papers also features Bath and satirises its social life. Pickwick takes the waters and his servent, Sam Weller, comments that the water has "a very strong flavour o' warm flat irons". The Royal Crescent is the venue for a chase between two of the characters, Dowler and Winkle.
The city's most famous sporting team is Bath Rugby, a rugby union team which is currently in the Zurich Premiership league. It plays in black, blue and white kit with its sponsors' logo, Blackthorn, stitched onto the front. The team plays at the Recreation Ground in the city where it has been since the late 19th century following its establishment in 1865 by a couple of decades. The team rose to national prestige during the 1980s where it has remained one of the best in the country since. Its current squad includes four who play in the English national elite team: Steve Borthwick, David Flatman, Danny Grewcock and Mike Tindall. Its first major honour was winning the John Player Cup four years consecutively from 1984 until 1987. It then led the courage league for six consecutive seasons from 1988/1989 until 1995/1996 during which time it also won the Pilkington Cup in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1996. It finally won the Heineken Cup in the 1997/1998 season and the Zurich Premiership in 2003/2004. The current England Rugby Team Manager Andy Robinson used to play for Bath Rugby team and was Captain and later Coach. Whilst in the Bath team he was Physical Education, Rugby and Maths teacher at King Edward's School, North Road, Bath. (These were the days when rugby was an amateur sport and so players had other jobs as well.) Both of Robinson's predecessors Clive Woodward and Jack Rowell were also former Bath coaches and managers.
Both Bath City F.C. and Team Bath F.C. (of the university) are football teams of the city and are both in the Southern Football League. Team Bath reached the FA Cup in 2002, the first university team to do so in 120 years. Unlike the city's rugby team Bath City have never attained an elite status in the country's league – its highest position has been seventh in Football Conference in the 1992/1993 season. The University's team was established in 1999 while the city team has been in existence since before 1908 (when it entered the Western League).
The final primary sport in Bath is cricket, which is played by and at the Bath Cricket Club located on the opposite side of the river to the rugby Recreation Ground—both of which are in close proximity to Pulteney Bridge. Team Bath is the umbrella name for all of the university teams, including the aforementioned football club. Other sport for which Team Bath is noted are athletics, badminton, basketball, bob skeleton, bobsleigh, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, netball, rugby, swimming, tennis and triathlon.
The city lies at the junction of the Kennet and Avon Canal and the navigable River Avon. It has a station on the main line from London to Bristol, which was built by the Great Western Railway. At one time it was also served by the Midland Railway, and by the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. These connections allowed the city to develop industry.
Today, it has notable software, publishing, and service-oriented industries in addition to tourism. The magazine publisher Future is one of Bath’s bigger employers. The firm publishes over 100 magazines — many in the computer and video gaming sector. Bath contains many small single-shop or restaurant based businesses which fulfill a niche market and are primarily supported by tourism.
Bath's principal industry is tourism and it is the most visited city outside of London for tourists travelling to the UK, whose visits mainly fall into the categories of heritage and cultural tourism. The history of Bath, stretching back to pre-ancient times, is a large part of the reason for its popularity – more importantly, however, is the architectural manifestation of this history. All significant stages of the history of England are identifiable as physically present within the city—from the Roman Baths (including their significant Celtic presence), to the Bath Abbey, to the Royal Crescent. Similarly, the cohesion of all of these historical stages and archtictural styles through the medium of the unique Bath stone, renders the city aesthetically beautiful.
Bath is notable for the fact that it has been a city based upon tourism since the 18th century (with brief decline during the 19th century)—the input of money by tourists, and the mere fact they were visiting, allowed the building of many architectural projects. This was historically expressed in projects such as the Royal Crescent, but has recently encouraged projects such as Thermae Bath Spa.
The true size of this industry is reflected in the almost 300 places of accommodation—including over 80 hotels, and over 180 Bed and Breakfasts—many of which are located in Georgian buildings and have five-star ratings. Some of the most famous include The Royal Crescent Hotel which may be found, as guessed, in the Royal Crescent. The city also contains approximately 100 restaurants, and a similar number of public houses and bars. Several companies offer open-top bus tours around the city (despised by many locals for the pollution they cause), as well as tours on foot and on the river.
The tourist season is located during the summer—though there is a year-round presence of tourists—both national and international. Though many come for general reasons—some are attracted to particular aspects such as Jane Austen, or the Roman Baths.
Bath is primarily served by the Bath Spa train station which has regular connections to London Paddington, Bristol Temple Meads, Cardiff, Swansea, Plymouth and Penzance (see Great Western Main Line) and also Westbury, Warminster, Salisbury, Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton (see Wessex Main Line). Services are provided by First Great Western (fast InterCity services) and Wessex Trains (semi-fast or local services).
The National Express operates coach services from Bath to a range of cities around the United Kingdom. Internally, Bath is covered with a number of bus routes run by the First Group, with services to surrounding towns and cities. The company also runs open-top double decker tour bus services around the city.
The Architecture of Bath
The most dominant style of architecture in Bath today is that of the Georgian period, the style often referred to as Georgian being in fact an evolvement of the Palladian revival style which became popular in the early 18th century. Many of the most prominent architects of the day were employed in the development of the city, and as a result Bath has many fine terraces of what appear to be elegant townhouses. However, Bath's architecture is seldom really that suggested by the honey-coloured classical facades. In an era before the advent of the five star hotel, frequently these apparent elegant residences were purpose-built rooming or lodging houses, where visitors to the city could hire a room, a floor, or occasionally an entire house, according to their means, for the duration of their visit, and be waited on by the house's communal servants.
'The Circus' is one of the most splendid examples of town planning in the city, unique as a town 'square' in England. Three long curved terraces designed by Wood the Elder form a circular space or theatre intended for civic functions and games. The games give a clue to the design, the inspiration behind which was the Colosseum in Rome. Like the Colosseum the three facades have a different order of architecture on each floor – Doric on the ground level, then Ionic on the piano nobile and finishing with Corinthian on the upper floor, the style of the building thus becoming progressively more ornate as it rises. Wood never lived to see his unique example of town planning completed, as he died 5 days after personally laying the foundation stone on 18th May 1754.
The most well known of Bath's terraces is the Royal Crescent, built between 1767 and 1774 and designed by John Wood the Younger; however here again all is not what it seems. While Wood designed the great curved facade of what appears to be 30 odd houses, with Ionic columns on a rusticated ground floor, that was the extent of Wood's input. Each contemporary purchaser bought a certain length of the facade, and then employed their own architect to build a house to their own specifications behind it, hence what appears to be two houses is sometimes one. This system of elegant town planning is betrayed at the rear of the crescent: while the front is completely uniform and symmetrical, the rear is a hotch-potch of differing roof heights, juxtapositions and fenestration, this "all to the front and no rear" school of architecture occurs repeatedly in Bath.
Circa 1770 the eminent neoclassical architect Robert Adam designed Pulteney Bridge, using as the prototype for the three-arched bridge spanning the Avon an original, but unused, design by Palladio for the Rialto Bridge in Venice. Thus Pulteney Bridge became not just a means of crossing the river, but also a shopping arcade, along with the Rialto Bridge one of the very few bridges in Europe to serve this dual purpose. Unfortunately, it has been drastically altered since it was built.
The heart of the Georgian city was the Pump Room, and its associated assembly halls were designed by Thomas Baldwin, a local builder, who was responsible for many other buildings in the city including the terraces in Argyle Street. Baldwin rose meteorically to be a leader in Bath's architectural history. In 1776 he was made the chief City Surveyor and in 1780 became City Architect. In 1776 he designed the Bath Guildhall, where his design of the interior is reputed to be one of the finest neoclassical interiors in the country. However it is Great Pulteney Street, where he himself eventually lived, which is one of his finest works; this wide boulevard constructed circa 1789, over 1000 feet long and 100 ft wide, is one of the city's most attractive thoroughfares, lined on both sides by classical terraces.
Architecturally Bath is one of the most uniform cities in England, and is a perfect example of idealistic 18th-century town planning.
Bath has two universities, primarily The University of Bath and secondarily Bath Spa University College. The former was established in 1966 and has grown to become a leading university in the United Kingdom, being present in many top 10 lists and is rated as excellent, the highest rating on government scales, in 14 subjects. The university is known, academically, for the physical sciences, mathematics and technology. It is also well known for sport which it plays under the name Team Bath. In football Team Bath F.C. was, in the 2002/2003 season, the first university team to enter the FA Cup since 1880. The university college was first granted degree-awarding powers in 1992. It will be upgraded to university status on 1 August 2005.
The city contains one stand-alone A-Level college, City of Bath College, and several sixth forms (schools which contain A-Level awarding departments) as part of both state and private schools. The oldest school in the city is King Edward's School, Bath an independently funded institution which was founded in 1552. It caters for 3 to 18 year olds and is known for its academic excellence (GCSE 99% pass rate and 99.7% pass rate at A-Level). Other independent schools in Bath include Prior Park College (11–18), Kingswood School (3–18), Royal High School, (3–18), Monkton Coombe and The Paragon School (3–11).
Notable state-funded secondary schools include Beechen Cliff School, a boys-only secondary and mixed sixth form which was founded in 1903 and moved to its current location under the name "City of Bath Boys' School" in 1932. Other state secondaries are Culverhay School (a male-only secondary with sixth form), Hayesfield School Technology College (female only secondary with mixed sixth form), Oldfield School (female-only secondary with sixth form), Ralph Allen School (mixed secondary and sixth form) and St. Gregory's Roman Catholic School (mixed secondary).
Bath has two newspapers – primarily the Bath Chronicle, a tabloid owned by the Daily Mail newsgroup and the Bath Times, a free newspaper. Both are published by Bath Newspapers who sell approximately than 178 000 newspapers a week. The Bath Chronicle is an evening paper that has been in existence since 1760. It has recently been involved in sensationalist stunts including name and shame campaigns of drink drivers. The newspaper has a circulation of 14,633 and readership of 40,2523. Bath Times meanwhile is a weekly, free tabloid newspaper largely based on advertising. It has a circulation of 29,946 and a readership of 44,5774.
Places of interest
- Roman Baths
- Bath Abbey
- Lansdown Crescent
- The Royal Crescent
- The Circus (Bath)
- Great Pulteney Street
- Pulteney Bridge
- American Museum
- Prior Park
- Thermae Bath Spa
- Solsbury Hill
- Kennet and Avon Canal
- River Avon
- St. Catherine's Court
- William Herschel Museum
- Beckford's Tower
- Claverton Pumping Station
- Bath Postal Museum
The recent remake of the film Vanity Fair was shot in Great Pulteney Street, and in August 2003 the Three Tenors sang at a special concert to mark the opening of the Thermae Bath Spa, a new hot water spring spa, in Bath City Centre; however as of this writing (June 2004) the spa itself is not yet open.
The city has several public parks – the main one being Royal Victoria Park in the centre of the city. Several events are held in the park every year including the International Music Festival and a one-off Three Tenors concert in 2003, and is a favoured site for hot air balloon companies to take off. It was opened in 1830 and has an area of 20 hectares5. The park features a botanical garden, large childrens play park and sports facilities including crazy golf and lawn tennis. It mostly consists of acres of lawn, one of which is overlooked by the Royal Crescent. Other parks in Bath include Alexandra Park, which crowns a hill and overlooks the city; Sydney Gardens, another small park in the centre which was developed for pleasure in the 18th century; Henrietta Park, Hedgemead Park and Alice Park. Jane Austen said that 'it would be pleasant to be near the Sydney Gardens. We could go into the Labyrinth everyday.' Alexandra, Alice and Henrietta parks were built into the growing city among the housing developments6.
- Train times for Bath from National Rail
- Street map and aerial photo of Bath from Multimap.com
- Thermae Bath Spa
- National Statistics (2001 census). Statistics about Bath. Retrieved on 12 March 2005.
- Mushroom Guide to Bath
- This is Bath
- Bath and North East Somerset council
- University of Bath
- The Bath Net
- Bath Past
- Business Resources in Bath
- A site linking maps of coords
- Circulation and readership numbers from official website
- Circulation and readership numbers from official website
- Size and date of establishment of Victoria Park from UKPG database
- Information on other parks from Historic Public Parks of Bath
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