Friday, 22 July 2016

Visit Bath and Find its Famous Residents

Bath has had its fair share of famous residents. In more recent times these have included the likes of John Cleese and Jaqueline Wilson, but for hundreds of years famous faces from all walks of life have come to visit Bath. Happily, some of Bath visits/famous stays in Bath have been recorded for posterity in the form of Bath’s commemorative open plaques (also known as blue plaques). If you’re coming to visit Bath, or already live here and want to explore the city a bit more, then you might like to track down a few of the following, who are just a small selection of the famous residents of Bath.

William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce (17-59-1833) is probably most well known as a politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist, whose tireless efforts helped lead to the passing of the Slave Trade Act in 1807. Almost opposite Dukes Hotel, at 36 Great Pulteney Street, is the plaque commemorating William Wilberforce’s two periods of residence in Bath in 1802 and 1805.

Pitt the younger  
Another politician, this time Prime Minister from 1783-1801 and again from 1804-1806, William Pitt the younger (1759-1806) is the youngest Prime Minister in the history of the UK, having gained office at the age of only 24. He stayed in Bath at 15 Johnstone Street in between his two terms as PM, partly because he was so often plagued with gout and “biliousness. 
Dr. David Livingstone
Of “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” fame. Dr. Livingstone (1813-1873) is most famous for his time as a medical missionary and explorer in Africa. He stayed at 13, the Circus in Bath while presenting a paper in 1864.

Dr. William Oliver  
Dr. Oliver (1695-1764) was, during his time, the leading physician in Bath, who is said to have invented the Bath bun, only to discover that his rheumatic patients needed a less fattening food, at which point he invented the “Bath Oliver” biscuit. He was one of the founders of the Royal Mineral Water Hospital which still stands to this day. His plaque is on the site of his old residence at 18 Queen Square.   

William Wordsworth
One of the famous “Lake Poets” along with Coleridge and Southey, Wordsworth (1770-1850) came to Bath in April and stayed until mid-June in 1841 to see the wedding of his only daughter, Dora, at St. James’ Church. His plaque is at 9, North Parade.

Jane Austen 
Jane Austen (1775-1817) lived in Bath from 1801-1805. She also based large parts of two of her novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey here. She stayed in a few different properties during her time in the city, but her plaque can be found at 4 Sydney Place, the first house she and her family rented here.

Thomas Gainsborough

Gainsborough (1727-1788) has to be one of the most famous British portrait and landscape painters. In 1759 he and his family moved to Bath and attracted such prominent sitters here as Lord Chesterfield, Richard Sheridan, and Edmund Burke (who all also have plaques in the city). His plaque is at 17, the Circus.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

What To Do In Bath This Weekend

We’re certainly not stuck for choice when looking for things to do in Bath this weekend. As well as the sights that all visitors to Bath have to see; the Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey, and the Roman Baths to name only three, there are a fair few one-offs that you might like to have a look at this weekend as well.

On Saturday it’s time again for the Bath Carnival. Each year the city chooses a new theme for the carnival and for the parade. This year the theme is South America, and each area of Bath has a different sub-theme on which they’ve based their costumes. Over the past couple of weeks costumes have been sewn and plans made and, at last, on Saturday from 3 pm - 4:30 pm the colourful carnival parade will makes its way through the centre of Bath. Expect sights and smells of South America, as well as drumming bands, dance clubs and community groups.

Storytelling for adults at Bath’s Museum of East Asian Art is also on on Saturday the 16th from 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm. The Red Threads will present two enchanting Asian love stories from China and Japan which will be performed by professional storyteller Martin Maudsley. Tickets are £6 and advance booking is required. This one has us intrigued…

Similarly cultural is an art class with a difference which is being held at the Holburne this Saturday. Artist Sally Muir, with the help of her dog Lily, will be teaching a workshop dedicated to helping artists capture the mood and movement of drawing live animals. It’s being held alongside the museum’s latest Stubbs and the Wild exhibition, and runs from 10:30am -4:30pm at a cost of £50. Pencils and charcoal provided, and sketchbooks may be brought or paper purchased on the day.

This is another arty one. Have a peek at the work of three very different local sculptors whose work, which is designed specifically to enhance the natural beauty of a garden, will be on display this weekend in the garden at 165 Newbridge Hill. Ornamental terracotta vases, engraved stonework and large worked metal sculptures will be on display. The entrance fee is £3 and homemade scones and cake will be available. The money raised from the refreshments goes to The Peggy Dodd Centre, which helps those suffering from memory loss.

A little further afield is Bowood Dog Show, which will demonstrate the brilliant talents and skills of Police, service and protection dogs. Other attractions on the day include birds of prey, along with children’s entertainment and plenty of craft stalls to explore. Also nearby, this time in Wells at the Bishop’s Palace and Gardens, will be a creative textiles workshop, which will be taking place from 10:30 am – 4:30 pm. Trailing tendrils will be the theme and workshop participants will be designing a small embroidered panel using couched threads, silks, beads and metallic threads. (Some experience in basic embroidery skills is required for the workshop.) Tuition and guidance will be given for each process and tickets are £28.  

All in all, definitely not a weekend to stay at home!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Visit Bath and Follow in the Footsteps of Mary Shelley

Bath’s connection to Jane Austen is well known. Not only did Jane write two books which feature the city as a location (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion), but she also lived here between 1801 and 1806. There are other authors too whose links to Bath are sometimes referenced. Charles Dickens visited the city and it’s thought that he based The Old Curiosity Shop on a shop which he found here, and the award winning author Jacqueline Wilson was born in Bath. One author whose connections to Bath are mentioned so often is Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley moved to Bath in September 1816, along with her soon-to-be husband Percy Shelley, so that she could be close to her stepsister Claire Claremont who was pregnant out of wedlock with Lord Byron’s child. While she was living in Bath, Mary continued work on the novel which she had begun that summer at Lake Geneva – the novel which would become Frankenstein.

From the 16th of June until the 30th of September this year, to mark the 200th anniversary since the novel began to be written (although begun in 1816, it wasn’t published until 1818), Show of Strength Theatre Company are conducting nightly theatrical walking tours of Bath in which they will reveal the city’s forgotten role in shaping Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. The walk will reveal the scandals and drama underpinning the creation of the novel, what really happened between herself and her infamous friends, and it will explore the incredible and unmarked locations where she lived and which inspired her gothic muse…  

Those attending the tour will discover where Mary’s mother (the infamous Mary Wollstonecraft) lived, where Mary Shelley wrote the majority of Frankenstein during her four month stay in Bath, and will learn the truth about the Shelleys’ mystery Bath address which doesn’t exist. The tour will also explain what Frankenstein is really about below the surface.

Each walking tour begins at 7:30pm from Rebecca’s Fountain, which lies just to the side outside of Bath Abbey, and finishes at around 8:45pm. The length is about one mile, and is completely on the flat so is suitable for everyone. Tickets are £8 (cash only) and there is no advance booking required.  

If you’re coming to Bath this summer there are lots of walking tours you can do; the free walking tours offered by the Mayor’s Honorary Guides (10:30am and 2pm daily (excluding Saturdays – 10:30am only)), Regency walking tours, comedy walks – the list goes on. However, a tour about Frankenstein and Mary Shelley and Bath isn’t one we’ve come across before, and it certainly shows you a side of Bath that not many people know about. So it’s well worth doing if you’ll be coming to visit Bath before the end of September!