Saturday, 22 October 2016

Visit Bath and Visit Bath’s Famous Circus

The Royal Crescent shouldn't get all the glory.

More often than not, the buildings in Bath that get the most attention are those of the Royal Crescent. The Royal Crescent is the scene you’ll see on postcards, as the subject of artistic photographs, on tea towels, used for logos… And we can see why, the thirty terraced houses make for an incredible façade, and one well worth visiting and taking pictures of, but just down the road is the another feat of architectural innovation which doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves; the Circus.   

The King’s Circus as it was originally called (named in honour of George II though he never lived to see its completion), was mapped out John Wood the Elder and work was begun on it in 1754. Unfortunately, less than three months after work began John Wood died, so his son, John Wood the Younger, took over work on it. 

In the end the Circus took fourteen years to complete, with the final stone going into place in 1768. Considering that the Circus was partially constructed while the Seven Years War was underway (1756-1763), it’s not that surprising that it took a while to complete; as the war sucked men and money out of the economy. Besides, one advantage to the building delays was that it gave John Wood the Younger lots of time to look at the Circus in its incomplete form. The elegant curves of the south west segment standing alone have been said to have inspired him to design his own masterpiece – the Royal Crescent. But that’s another story. Back to the Circus. 

Wood the Elder thought carefully about his design for the King’s Circus, but the details he thought for so long about are often missed. For example, Wood looked at the site of Stonehenge and used the dimensions of the stones to determine the diameter of the Circus (318 feet). This was a nod to Bath’s claims of having originally been a site for Druid activity.   

Another feature of Wood’s design was the way he divided the Circus. By having three segments of equal length Wood ensured that whichever road a visitor to the Circus came up, they would have the full impact of one of the segment’s classical façades directly in front of them. 

The decorations too deserve some recognition. Running along the top of the front doors and ground floor windows all around the Circus is a frieze which is decorated with 525 emblems, almost all of which are unique. The symbols include sickles, birds, pairs of compasses, globes, and lots of symbols to represent the arts, science and masonry. It is thought that some of them denoted the profession of the gentleman who originally lived in the Circus. While the large stone acorns which adorn the roofs of the Circus houses are there as a reference to Bath’s founding by banished King Bladud, who, at the time he first found Bath, was working as a leper swineherd whose pigs had rather a liking for acorns; which then led to Bladud’s discovery of Bath’s healing waters… 

They say that a visit to Bath is not complete unless you’ve visited the Royal Crescent, but we’d add to that that a visit to Bath is similarly not complete unless you’ve visited the Circus.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Visit Bath and Visit Bath Museums During Museums Week

From 22nd – 30th October Bath is running its ever-popular museums week - previously known as Heritage Open Week. 

During this week (well, nine days to be precise but nine days doesn’t have the same ring to it) Bath’s museums will be opening their doors for longer and will be running special events for adults, families and children alike; so while the museums in Bath are well worth a visit at any time of year, throughout this week they’re an especially good place to be. It’s also a good opportunity to visit before many of the museums reduce their opening times for the winter, and some also close altogether over the winter period so this week is one of the last opportunities to take a look at them this year.

Below we’ve listed a few gems of museums week that we felt both newcomers to Bath, and residents and frequent visitors to the city alike, might enjoy.  

On Saturday the 22nd of October, Sunday 23rd, Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th, Beckford’s Tower and Museum will be offering a guided tour of the Tower and cemetery that was once William Beckford’s garden. William Beckford was an important figure in Bath as he was a patron of decorative arts, an English novelist and a sometime politician for nearby Wells. The Tower and museum tells the story of Beckford’s life and works and its museums week tour is from 11am-12 noon and booking (via 01225 460705) is essential. Later on those days Beckford’s Tower and Museum will also be offering a 3pm-4pm walking tour of the various towers which can be found around Lansdown.  

On Tuesday 25th Bath’s American Museum in Britain is hosting falconry displays at 12:30pm and 2:30pm which will include owls, eagles, hawks and falcons. The museum itself is well worth a visit, but with the addition of birds of prey flying over the amazing grounds it’s a good time to go.  

For fans of the Roman Baths (and who isn’t?) on Thursday 27th the Baths will be joining in with other museums across the country who will be opening later as part of Museums at Night. From 6pm-8pm (last entry at 7pm) you will be able to tour the Baths as they are illuminated by torchlight. They’re atmospheric during the day but at night the feeling you get is on a whole other level.  

On Friday 28th the Museum of Asian Art (which is nearly opposite the Assembly Rooms) will be holding a tea ceremony demonstration from 6pm-7pm. During this time guests will learn about the essential elements of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, sample a selection of Asian teas, and enjoy relaxing Japanese music.

Our final recommendation is that throughout the week Bath’s famous delicacy, the Sally Lunn bun, will be getting a new twist each morning. At Sally Lunn’s House (a restaurant with small museum attached) between 10am and 12 noon the bun will be served with a different sweet topping. So perhaps a good place to go for an early lunch?

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Visit Bath – Facts About Bath You May Not Have Known

When you visit Bath there are some things that every guidebook will tell you. “Visit Bath and visit the Royal Crescent”, “Bath was made a World Heritage Site in 1987”, “Bath was first founded over 2,000 years ago ”. But sometimes it’s nice to delve a little deeper and discover some of the lesser-known facts. On that note, these are a few of our favourite facts about Bath.

1.     The spa water from the Roman Baths contains 43 different minerals.

These include Sodium, Magnesium and Calcium. The water is still available to try today if you like. It’s available from the spa fountain in the West Baths at the end of a tour of the Roman Baths, or from the traditional fountain in the Pump Rooms. It should be noted though that it has rather a distinct scent…

2.     The Beau Street Hoard is made up of 17,577 Roman coins from 32BC – 274AD.  

17,577! A hoard indeed. They were found in eight separate money bags in 2007 which had become fused together over time. We do wonder who buried them and why.    

3.     The last memorial to be put in Bath Abbey was for Sir Isaac Pitman who invented shorthand in 1958.  

Another memorial of note in Bath Abbey includes that of Richard Chapman who was an Alderman of Bath in the 1500s. Sir Isaac Pitman’s memorial can be found in the north choir aisle.

4.     Jane Austen’s parents were married in Bath.

The Rev. George Austen and Cassandra Leigh married on April 26th 1764 at St. Swithin’s Church. This is also where the Austen family went to church while living in Bath (the Abbey was too crowded) and where George Austen’s grave is.  

5.     William Herschel was the conductor of Bath Orchestra

William discovered the planet Uranus while in Bath, but he didn’t begin his life in Bath as an astronomer. He moved to Bath in 1766 and earned money through playing the organ in Bath’s Octagon chapel, and also to some extent through his composing. In 1780 he was appointed director of the Bath orchestra and his sister Caroline often appeared as a soprano soloist.

6.     Queen Victoria opened the Royal Victoria Park and then never returned.  

Royal Victoria Park was opened in 1830 by Victoria who was then only a princess. Unfortunately during the opening a comment was made only Victoria’s apparently bad dress and thick ankles. Victoria was so hurt that she never returned to Bath ever again.

7.     The Royal Crescent isn’t the only crescent in Bath.  

The Royal Crescent is the most famous but there are six others; Lansdown, Camden, Cavendish, Norfolk, Widcombe and Somerset (though this is less curved than the others and doesn’t have ‘crescent’ in its title, so its crescent status is more debatable).   

8.     The chandeliers in Bath’s Assembly Rooms Ballroom are insured for £9 million.

They were commissioned from glassmaker William Parker in the early 1770s. They each held forty candles and were so impressive that the Prince Regent commissioned £2,500 worth of chandeliers from him for Carlton House.