Friday, 14 August 2015

10,000 years for the water to boil

How the early buildings were built with stone "rocks"
Originally the town of Bath was a swamp. When the Romans invaded for the second time, they stayed and drained the swamp and siphoned the water via aqueducts to the baths. There are now three hot springs in the town.

The water that falls on the hills out of town will take 10,000 years before it comes up through the hot springs. It has 43 minerals and is 45ºC. Amazingly, over a million litres of hot water comes out every day. It didn’t cure all the ailments that people came for but it did cure the leprosy of a prince who came to these parts to escape and rear pigs. His pigs got his disease and after wallowing in the hot mud were cured. So he did the same thing. After being cured he was able to go back home and became King of England.

The town of Bath was built in the Georgian period so called because it was built during the reigns of four consecutive King George’s.

We joined one of the local walking tours and learned a lot about the town which made our trip all the more interesting.

The medieval town wall originally surrounded the entire town but only a portion remains today. It would have been about 6 metres tall but now because the level of the land has been raised by silt from the Avon river when it floods, it is on a few metres high.

The old Roman town wall, that used to be 6' high
There are numerous places within the city that you can see the green hills of beyond, creating a tranquility of openeness. Much of the vistas are closed off now by tall trees, but it was not always so.

The sandstone was first dug out like rocks but later they sawed it which made smooth blocks. The stone when first quarried was a light silver colour but the soot from the chimneys turned the buildings black. A few years ago many of the buildings were cleaned. Many of the buildings are heritage listed grade 1 or 2 and you are not allowed to do anything to the exterior without permission. Even if the panes of your windows were changed a few hundred years ago, you can’t change them to reflect the original ones. Athough a lady painted her front door yellow, and predictably she was told to change it back to white, but she fought it in the courts and won.

In the 1700’s the postal system was very slow, as all mail was sent to London for sorting, before being sent to it’s final destination. Ralph Allen, a Bath postal worker decided there had to be a better way. He came up with a system whereby they sorted mail along the way. It made the postal service very profitable and he became very rich. With his wealth, we bought the sandstone quarries. He brought in skilled craftsman who instead of hacking out the stone, used saws to cut the stone. Instead of rocks, the stone blocks were now smooth.

The columns on The Circus are doric on the bottom, ionic on the next level and Corinthian at the top. The measurements that John Wood the elder took from Stonhenge were used for the diameter for the Circus (they used to thing the Druids created Stonehenge, but this is actually untrue. The Druids were a cult that believed in the countryside. The acorns that adorn the top of the buildings also relate to the oak trees. The middle of the Circus used to be cobblestones and the servants would go out to the centre where there was a spring to collect water for the houses. The residents complained about the noise and the cobblestones were raised and grass and plane trees were planted. While the facades where designed by the Woods; the houses behind them are built by different builders.

The Circus
The area in front of the houses in the Royal Crescent (designed by John Wood the younger) had a lawn area just for the residents as it does today. A “ha ha” wall and ditch made sure that cows and other people couldn’t enter their grassed area.

The Royal Crescent
Most of the town is built on raised arches, so the basements are actually at ground level. The staff worked down here. The ground floor (street level) was the living/dining area, the next level was for the owners to sleep and the attics were for the staff to sleep. The circus was designed so that when you came up a street it looked like a complete circle.

People were taxed on the number of windows they had. After an outcry from the people, the government changed the law so that if the space between two windows was less than 10 inches, then you could claim them to be as one window. So a number of people reduced the amount of space between their windows or filled the windows in. When the windows were filled in, they had less daylight and that is where the term daylight robbery comes from.

These windows have been moved closer together and one has been filled in
Bath Abbey used to be an abbey but it isn't any more; an abbey is a church that has a monastery or a nunnery attached but King Henry VIII had them all demolished. The Abbey is in the centre of the city and three different churches have occupied the site throughout it’s lifetime. The first one was in 757AD, which was pulled down in the 2nd Century and a massive Norman cathedral was built in 1090. It fell into ruins as the monastery couldn’t maintain it. A new one was built within the old walls in 1499, then they dismantled the old abbey that was around it. It fell into disrepair 39 years later but has since been restored.

Bath Abbey
William Pulteney’s wife had inherited land in rural Bathwick across the river from Bath, but no one would build there as it could only be reached by ferry. So he had Robert Adam build a bridge with shops to entice the ladies. Builder’s started to build on his land but then with some major world events the money dried up and no one was buying, so the land has largely been used for cricket and rugby fields. There are only 3 bridges in the world where shops line both sides of a bridge, and this is one of them.

Pulteney Bridge 
The night watchmen were paid by the householders to collect the human waste and then they on sold it to the community gardens for compost. The soil is said to be very good even today.

Because so many sick people came here they realised they needed a hospital. To be treated at this hospital you needed three things. A letter from your parish to vouch for your character, a letter from your physician to confirm that you needed treatment and £400.

The original hospital was not for medical, but accommodation for old people. They still have a number of these buildings in the city that cater to about 100 elderly citizens.

World's first department store
Bath opened the first Chemist, the first department store, and had the first postage stamp.

We stayed in a guest house on Brock Street , a perfect location which runs between The Circus and the Royal Crescent. It was only a short walk into the centre of town.


  1. What? A total change from wildlife to bricks and mortar? No little squirrels or mice? What about dead chickens hanging at the local market or has Bath gotten to modern for that?

    1. yes, believe it or not, some people don't really like our wildlife....