Saturday, 22 July 2017

What’s That Got To Do With Bath…?

Two bronze lions guard the gates to Victoria Park; the mascot of Bath Rugby is Maximus the lion;
there are random lion statues (one blue mosaicked one near the Abbey) dotted around Bath. Bath has over 500 images of lions in and around the city, but what have lions got to do with Bath?
Lions have been the symbol of royal England for nine hundred years, and they became forever linked with Bath after the first King of all England, King Edgar, was crowned in Bath in 973AD. A lion also features on Bath’s coat of arms, reflecting the royal heritage of the city, alongside… 

A boar
Pigs are another animal that’s long been associated with Bath. The legend goes that around 863BC, prince Bladud contracted leprosy while studying in Athens and on his return home he left court - unable to take the throne, and became a swineherd. His pigs unfortunately also contracted his disease.
However, when they came to the area that is now Bath, the pigs rolled in the hot mud around Bath’s springs while looking for acorns and Bladud saw that their leprosy was soon cured. Bladud followed suit, bathed in the mud, was also cured, returned to take the throne and then, to show his gratitude, founded the city of Bath; dedicating its curative powers to the Celtic goddess Sul.   

The Gorgon’s Head
Archaeologists have been able to work out that this stone carving would have been in the centre of the ornamental pediment, which stood at the entrance of the great temple beside the Baths. It’s survived incredibly well given how it’s nearly two thousand years old! So hardly surprising that it’s become a key symbol of Bath. The reason the Roman’s chose a Gorgon’s head in the first place though was because it was a key symbol of the goddess Sulis Minerva. Which brings us neatly to…

The head of Sulis Minerva
Aquae Sulis was the Roman name for Bath and literally means “waters of Sul”. The Romans dedicated their temple to the nourishing, life-giving mother goddess Sulis Minerva (some think she is a combination of the Celtic goddess Sul and the Roman goddess Minerva) and erected a huge statue to her within their temple. The gilt bronze head of this statue survives to this day. It was found in 1727, and is so remarkable, not only because of its artistic merit, but also because only two other gilt bronze statues from Roman times have ever been found on Britain.  

The symbol in the floor 

At the junction of Bath Street and Stall Street (just beside the exit from the Roman Baths) there’s a large bronze symbol set into the cobbles. It pops up on keyrings, websites, and lots of other Bath-related items and media. The reason is because it’s the World Heritage Symbol, which commemorates the City of Bath’s addition onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987. At this point the city was identified as “a masterpiece of human creative genius whose protection must be the concern of all.” Not bad going, considering that the only other two cities in the world to hold this accolade are The Vatican and Venice!    

Saturday, 15 July 2017

It’s All About Books in Bath This Week

We’ve been looking at the events coming up in Bath this week and a bit of a theme has emerged. Bath will be enjoying a plethora of bookish events. If you enjoy reading, we’re sure one or more of these will be of interest…

Waterstones in Bath sometimes puts on events, but when if you enjoy going to talks given by prominent authors then Bath’s independent bookshops are the place to go. 


This week Toppings and Company (who have a marvelous shop on the corner of The Paragon (if you haven’t been we really recommend taking a look)) have organised a couple of amazing events.  

The first, on Monday 17th, is an event with neurosurgeon-turned-author Henry Marsh. He’ll be reflecting on what forty years on the surgical frontline has taught him, and why he still continues to devote himself to work in Nepal and Ukraine while promoting his new book Admissions. His book Do No Harm was a wonderful read, and in his latest book he explores the purpose he has found in his own life, and the fresh understanding he has gained of what matters to us all in the end.

Then, on Tuesday 17th, internationally best-selling author Natasha Pulley, who wrote the captivating The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, will be speaking about her new book. The Bedlam Stacks is set in 1859 in the shadowy, magical forests of South America. We’re intrigued and sure that her talk will be a fantastic event for any fans of historical fiction. 

Both of these events can be booked via Toppings website, or through their shop on The Paragon.  

Next, we couldn’t write this post without mentioning that this week marks the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death, so naturally Bath has plenty of events planned to help commemorate her life and achievements. Our top pick of the events going on being the walking tour, Crescent vs Crescent, with Dr Amy Frost on Wednesday 19th

The tour, though not Austen themed per-se, will explore the social history that took place between the construction of the Royal Crescent and Lansdown Crescent (via Camden Crescent and Cavendish 
Crescent), so very much Austen’s era. (Tickets from )  

Finally, although not book-themed, we have to mention an adaptation of a film that will be playing at the Theatre Royal from this Friday (21st July) to the 12th of August.

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, North by Northwest, has been adapted for the stage and, having seen clips online, looks wonderful. They’ve blended top-notch acting with clever set design and live film to create an incredible show. They’ve even managed to recreate the scene with the crop-dusting plane!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Bath Has Gone Cheese Mad

If you’ve been out and about in the centre of Bath, have come across cheeses randomly scattered around, and have wondered what’s going on, this might help to clear things up.  

Until very recently we’d forgotten that one of the cities that Bath is twinned with is Alkmaar in North Holland. It seems we weren’t the only ones. In an effort to help tell the wonderful story of how Bath and Alkmaar came to be twinned back in 1947 (more on that in a minute), Bath Comedy have teamed up with Visit Bath and Bath-Alkmaar Twinning Association to create The Big Bath Cheese Trail.

It runs from July 10th until July 16th and will see 74 cheeses, kindly donated by Alkmaar cheesemongers, being scattered around Bath in the windows of Bath’s independent shops and in other ‘prominent’ places (the organisers have made it clear that some cheeses will be hard to find and that not everyone will find them all). The idea is that each cheese will have a fascinating fact about the history of the twinning attached to it, and also a link to a numbered quiz question on the entry form that’s been created for The Big Bath Cheese Trail.  

The Trail is free to enter and the winner gets a giant cheese. Of course. (The entry forms with the most correct answers will be placed in a draw and the winner will be drawn at random.)  

So, what is the story behind the twinning of Bath and Alkmaar?

Despite the fact that Bath was still reeling from the awful Baedeker bombing raids which devastated the city in 1942, the citizens of Bath raised the equivalent of £250,000 in today’s money for the children of Alkmaar – the city was in the grips of the terrible Hunger Winter of 1946/47 and families were being torn apart by famine and freezing conditions.

As well as sending money, clothing and food, families in Bath played host to a large group of the children who were most in need – giving them a Christmas to remember! Later on Alkmaar returned the gesture by organising a holiday for 50 Bath children. For many of them this was their first trip abroad and their first holiday for many many years.   

The first official visit to Bath by dignitaries from Alkmaar took place in 1946, with the cities being twinned in 1947. Although the cities weren’t formally confirmed twinned until May 1990.

To this day the two cities still have regular sporting and cultural exchanges, and so to honour the 70-year anniversary of the cities long friendship, they’ve launched The Big Bath Cheese Trail and Bath Comedy will also be presenting an evening of contemporary cutting-edge Dutch comedy at Widcombe Social Club on July 11th. Besides this we’ve seen that there will be other events in coming months to mark the landmark year, but we’ll save those for a future blog.

In the meantime, if you’d like to enter The Big Bath Cheese Trail then you can download a free entry form here. (After all, it’s a good excuse to go and explore all over Bath, and who wouldn’t want a giant cheese!)