Photo By Peter Watts
Bath (Kennet and Avon Canal at Claverton)
 

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Bath - FURTHER INFORMATION

Bath - Bath visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'Bath' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Somerset.

Bath, located in the Avon valley at the Southern edge of the Cotswolds. It is most famous for the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey and Jane Austen. Bath was founded in the time of the Celts. Legend has it that Bath was founded by Balud, who discovered a thermal spring in what was then marsh land which had healing properties. As a result the Celts later built a shrine to Sulis. The Romans arrived in Britain in 43AD and took over Bath, calling it Aquae Sulis (Waters of Sulis). A temple was built and dedicated to Minerva. The baths fell into disrepair after the Romans left, and were then rediscovered in the 18th century.

Bath

Bath has now been declare a World Heritage Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The principle driver of the economy now is tourism, which explains the existence of over 300 hotels, B&B and other forms of accommodation scattered in and around the city. Bath is the second most popular tourist destination for visitors to England after London. Some of the hotels of Bath feature on this tour and are listed further on our Bath Hotels page.

The Roman Baths of Minerva (Aquae Sulis)

The Roman Baths have gradually been excavated since the 18th Century. Much of the remains are still buried under the surrounding Georgian streets. However, what has been excavated provides arguably the best example of Roman Baths in Britain. The Romans took over the site in the middle of the First Century AD soon after began construction of the public baths and temple complex. By the 3rd century, the baths had become a focus for pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire.

The Roman Baths contain some of the finest Roman architecture and decorations. At its height the complex centered around the Great Bath, situated in its own hall, lined with 14 sheets of lead and surrounded by statues of the gods. Joined to this was a series of 4 heated healing pools and a hypocaust heating system served several more sweat rooms. After this, pilgrims could use other pools and cold rooms to cool down.

The body of artifacts, coins and religious items recovered form the Roman Baths has greatly contributed to the body of knowledge about these times.


Bath Abbey

The current abbey represents the last in a series of monastic establishments built in Bath and is still in use. The series started in 675 when Abbess Berta was granted permission to establish a convent. This was later changed into a monastery by the Bishop of Worcester. Over time a church of St. Peter was established and raised to Cathedral status around 1090 when the see of Somerset moved to the walled city from Wells. More building work continued, but the Cathedral fell into decline and disrepair after the 12th century became the property of the crown in 1539, whereupon it was stripped of all assets, including the roof and left to rot.

Restoration of Bath Abbey began a generation later under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I. The new nave roof was built around 1610, paid for by Bishop of Bath Abbey, John Montagu. Final restoration in the 1800s restored the original design of stone-carved fan vaulting.

Bath Architecture

Many of the buildings in Bath described below are featured on our Bath tour. One prominent architect was John Wood, responsible for the design of many of the famous streets and squares of Bath which were built during the Georgian period. These include both the North and South Parades, the Circus, Prior Park and Queen Square. His work was continued after his death by his son, John Wood the Younger, who designed the Royal Crescent and Assembly Rooms

Another prominent building is the Pump Room, originally designed by Thomas Baldwin. It became a very popular meeting place during the 19th century, and continues to be used for performances and houses a restaurant, as well as selling samples of water from the Bath Spring.

Pulteney Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in Bath and one of only two bridges in Europe to support shops. Robert Adam designed Pultney Bridge in 1770, modeling it on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Bath and Jane Austen

Jane Austen visited Bath a number of times and knew the area well. Two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, set in and around the city. There is now a Jane Austen museum in Bath located at 40 Gay Street, just up the road from where she lived at Number 25.

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