History of Bath

History of Bath

The city became a spa with the Latin name Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis”) c. AD 60 when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although oral tradition suggests that the hot springs were known before then. It became popular as a spa town during the Georgian era, leaving a heritage of Georgian architecture crafted from Bath Stone.

Bath became a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city’s theatres, museums and other cultural and sporting venues have helped to make it a major centre for tourism with more than one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city each year.The city has two universities and there are large service sector, information and communication technology and creative industries.

Iron Age and Roman

Archaeological evidence shows that the site of the Roman baths‘ main spring was treated as a shrine by the Britons, and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva; the name Sulis continued to be used after the Roman invasion, appearing in the town’s Roman name, Aquae Sulis (literally, “the waters of Sulis”). Messages to her scratched onto metal, known as curse tablets, have been recovered from the sacred spring by archaeologists. The tablets were written in Latin, and cursed people by whom the writers felt they had been wronged. For example, if a citizen had his clothes stolen at the baths, he might write a curse, naming the suspects, on a tablet to be read by the goddess.

A temple was constructed in 60–70 AD and a bathing complex was built up over the next 300 years Engineers drove oak piles into the mud to provide a stable foundation, and surrounded the spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead. In the 2nd century, the spring was enclosed within a wooden barrel-vaulted structure, that housed the calidarium (hot bath),tepidarium (warm bath), and frigidarium (cold bath). The city was later given defensive walls, probably in the 3rd century]After the failure of Roman authority in the first decade of the 5th century, the baths fell into disrepair and were eventually lost as a result of silting.

In March 2012 a hoard of 30,000 silver Roman coins, one of the largest discovered in Britain, was unearthed in an archaeological dig. The coins, believed to date from the 3rd century, were found about 450 feet from the Roman baths.

Post-Roman and Medieval

Bath may have been the site of the Battle of Mons Badonicus (c. 500 AD), in which King Arthur is said to have defeated the Anglo-Saxons. The city fell to the West Saxons in 577 after the Battle of Deorham; the Anglo-Saxon poem The Ruin may describe the appearance of the Roman site about this time. A monastery was founded at an early date – reputedly by Saint David, although more probably in 675 by Osric, King of the Hwicce, perhaps using the walled area as its precinct. Nennius, a 9th-century historian, mentions a “Hot Lake” in the land of the Hwicce along the River Severn, and adds “It is surrounded by a wall, made of brick and stone, and men may go there to bathe at any time, and every man can have the kind of bath he likes. If he wants, it will be a cold bath; and if he wants a hot bath, it will be hot”. Bede described hot baths in the geographical introduction to the Ecclesiastical History in terms very similar to those of Nennius. King Offa of Mercia gained control of the monastery in 781 and rebuilt the church, which was dedicated to St. Peter.

By the 9th century the old Roman street pattern was lost and Bath was a royal possession.King Alfred laid out the town afresh, leaving its south-eastern quadrant as the abbey precinct. In the Burghal Hidage Bath is described as having walls of 1,375 yards (1,257 m) and was allocated 1000 men for defence. During the reign of Edward the Elder coins were minted  based on a design from the Winchester mint but with ‘BAD’ on the obverse relating to the Anglo-Saxons name for the town, Baðum, Baðan or Baðon, meaning “at the baths,” and this was the source of the present name. Edgar of England was crowned king of England in Bath Abbey in 973.

William Rufus granted the city to a royal physician, John of Tours, who became Bishop of Wells and Abbot of Bath,following the sacking of the town during the Rebellion of 1088. It was papal policy for bishops to move to more urban seats, and he translated his own from Wells to Bath.[He planned and began a much larger church as his cathedral, to which was attached a priory, with the bishop’s palace beside it. New baths were built around the three springs. Later bishops returned the episcopal seat to Wells, while retaining the name Bath in the title, Bishop of Bath and Wells. St John’s Hospital was founded around 1180, by Bishop Reginald Fitz Jocelinand is among the oldest almshouses in England. The ‘hospital of the baths’ was built beside the hot springs of the Cross Bath, for their health giving properties and to provide shelter for the poor infirm.

Administrative systems fell within the hundreds. The Bath Hundred had various names including the Hundred of Le Buri. The Bath Foreign Hundred or Forinsecum covered the area outside the city and was later combined into the Bath Forum Hundred. Wealthy merchants had no status within the hundred courts and formed guilds to gain influence. They built the first guildhall probably in the 13th century. Around 1200 the first mayor was appointed.

Early Modern

By the 15th century, Bath’s abbey church was badly dilapidated and Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells, decided to rebuild it on a smaller scale in 1500. The new church was completed just a few years before Bath Priory was dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII. The abbey church became derelict before being restored as the city’s parish church in the Elizabethan era, when the city experienced a revival as a spa. The baths were improved and the city began to attract the aristocracy. A Royal charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1590 confirmed city status.

During the English Civil War, the city was garrisoned for Charles I. Seven thousand pounds was spent on fortifications but on the appearance of parliamentary forces, the gates were thrown open and the city surrendered. It became a significant post for the New Model Army under William Waller. It was retaken by royalists following the Battle of Lansdowne fought on the northern outskirts of the city on 5 July 1643. Thomas Guidott, a student of chemistry and medicine at Wadham College, Oxford, set up a practice in the town in 1668. He was interested in the curative properties of the waters and he wrote A discourse of Bathe, and the hot waters there. Also, Some Enquiries into the Nature of the water in 1676. It brought the health-giving properties of the hot mineral waters to the attention of the country and the aristocracy arrived to partake in them.

Several areas of the city were developed in the Stuart period, and more building took place during Georgian times in response to the increasing number of visitors who required accommodation. Architects John Wood the elder and his son laid out the new quarters in streets and squares, the identical façades of which gave an impression of palatial scale and classical decorum. Much of the creamy gold Bath Stone used for construction in the city was obtained from the limestone Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines, owned by Ralph Allen (1694–1764). Allen, to advertise the quality of his quarried limestone, commissioned the elder John Wood to build a country house on his Prior Park estate between the city and the mines. Allen was responsible for improving and expanding the postal service in western England, for which he held the contract for more than forty years. Although not fond of politics, Allen was a civic-minded man and member of Bath Corporation for many years. He was elected mayor for a single term in 1742.

In the early 18th century, Bath acquired its first purpose-built theatre, the Old Orchard Street Theatre. It was rebuilt as the Theatre Royal, the along with the Grand Pump Room attached to the Roman Baths and assembly rooms. Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash, who presided over the city’s social life from 1705 until his death in 1761, drew up a code of behaviour for public entertainments.

Late Modern

The population of the city was 40,020 at the 1801 census, making it one of the largest cities in Britain. William Thomas Beckford bought a house in Lansdown Crescent in 1822, and subsequently two adjacent houses to form his residence. Having acquired all the land between his home and the top of Lansdown Hill, he created a garden more than 12 mile (800 m) in length and built Beckford’s Tower at the top.

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia spent the four years in exile, from 1936 to 1940, at Fairfield House in Bath. During World War II, between the evening of 25 April and the early morning of 27 April 1942, Bath suffered three air raids in reprisal for RAF raids on the German cities of Lübeck and Rostock, part of the Luftwaffe campaign popularly known as the Baedeker Blitz. During the Bath Blitz, more than 400 people were killed, and more than 19,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. Houses in the Royal Crescent, Circus and Paragon were burnt out along with the Assembly Rooms. A 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) high explosive bomb landed on the east side of Queen Square, resulting in houses on the south side being damaged, and the Francis Hotel losing 24 metres (79 ft) of its frontage. The buildings have all been restored, although there are still signs of the bombing.

A postwar review of inadequate housing led to the clearance and redevelopment of areas of the city in a postwar style, often at variance with the local Georgian style. In the 1950s the nearby villages of Combe Down, Twerton and Weston were incorporated into the city to enable the development of housing, much of it council housing. In the 1970s and 1980s it was recognised that conservation of historic buildings was inadequate, leading to more care and reuse of buildings and open spaces. In 1987 the city was selected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, recognising its international cultural significance.

Since 2000, developments have included the Bath Spa, SouthGate and the Bath Western Riverside project.

Climate

Along with the rest of South West England, Bath has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C (50.0 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than most of the United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures. The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily maxima of approximately 21 °C (69.8 °F). In winter mean minimum temperatures of 1 or 2 °C (33.8 or 35.6 °F) are common. Average rainfall is around 700 mm (28 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, and June to August have the lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the south-west.

Tourism

One of Bath’s principal industries is tourism, with more than one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city on an annual basis.[The visits mainly fall into the categories of heritage tourism and cultural tourism, aided by the city’s selection in 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognising its international cultural significance. All significant stages of the history of England are represented within the city, from the Roman Baths (including their significant Celtic presence), to Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent, to Thermae Bath Spa in the 2000s.

The size of the tourist industry is reflected in the almost 300 places of accommodation – including over 80 hotels, and over 180 bed and breakfasts – many of which are located in Georgian buildings. The history of the city is displayed at the Building of Bath Collection which is housed in a building which was built in 1765 as the Trinity Presbyterian Church. It was also known as the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel, as she lived in the attached house from 1707 to 1791. Two of the hotels have ‘five-star’ ratings. There are also two campsites located on the western edge of the city. The city also contains about 100 restaurants, and a similar number of public houses and bars. Several companies offer open-top bus tours around the city, as well as tours on foot and on the river. Since 2006, with the opening of Thermae Bath Spa, the city has attempted to recapture its historical position as the only town in the United Kingdom offering visitors the opportunity to bathe in naturally heated spring waters.