Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bath: Other Sites of Interest

Bath: Other Sites of Interest

While I spent as much time as I could walking Georgian and Regency Bath, there were a few other sites of interest I visited that you might be interested in reading about.

The Roman Baths

The Romans founded the town and temple complex known as Aquae Sulis around AD 63. Near here, was a large natural hot spring shrine of the Celtic Brythons, dedicated to their goddess, Sulis. The Romans built an extensive bath and temple complex around the hot springs. The Roman complex was discovered in the late 19th century and has been on display to visitors ever since. There is now a museum with many of the ancient artifacts which have been discovered over the years and displays that shed light on the history of the baths, explain the significance and put the baths in context.

The original Roman spring was a sacred site. Worshipers of the goddess dropped offerings into the spring. By the 6th century, the temple and baths had fallen into disuse and collapsed. Water levels rose. In the 12th century the site was named King's Bath after Henry I. It was used as a curative bath. In the 17th century the statue of Bladud and balustrade were added. The 18th century pump room is above.  The ledge around the spring is all that remains of the King's Bath floor.

The great bath. Since it's now open to the elements, algae has built up given the water a green tinge but since the Roman baths were covered, the water would have been clean.

Parade Gardens 
The Parade Gardens is a lovely park on the site of the Lower Assembly rooms. You have to pay a (small) admission fee, but it's worth the price. There are beautiful flower and herb displays, a gorgeous view of the river Avon and a lovely little tea shop where you can take tea in the gardens. 

Mineral Water Hospital 

The Royal Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases opened in 1742 for relief from Rheumatic Disease among the “Beggars of Bath.” Patients were bathed in the mineral waters in hopes of curing their diseases. Queen Victoria gave the hospital Royal status. Inside the chapel is a small exhibit showcasing the history of the hospital. When the volunteer learned I’m a librarian, she showed me their old record books dating back to the 1740s! They treated men, women and children which was unusual at the time. They treated not only rheumatic diseases but also skin diseases. A lot of travelers came in from the colonies. Many of them had diseases like scurvy or scabies that they didn’t understand back then. Also on display is a wheeled Bath Chair. It was a wooden black cylindrical box used to carry people around the city. The bath chairs that went to the hospital had a special bulge for the knees for the patients. They had some instruments from the 20th century used to operate on patients and metal things used for joint replacements. They also had a portable X-Ray machine from the 1940s. The old lady told me that X-Ray machines date back to around WWI. Her ancestor was an American doctor from Texas and he fought to join the British Army as a doctor before the U.S. entered the war. He went out to France with his portable X-Ray machine to treat injured soldiers. He was killed just before the war ended. His hometown in Texas honors him each year with his own day. They hope to add more information and artifacts as they discover things in their archive. It's a working hospital, so if you visit, be respectful.

Sally Lunn House

The legend states that “a young Huguenot refugee – Solange Luyon (Sally Lunn) – came to Bath in 1680 after escaping persecution in France. She found work in the kitchen of the bakery in the street known in those days as Lilliput Alley, and originally sold the baker’s wares from a basket in the lanes around Bath Abbey. “ She brought with her a recipe for a brioche bun similar to the French festival breads. The recipe is a secret. You get half a bun toasted with the topping or meal of your choice. I ordered a bun with cinnamon butter. The bun comes topped with an orange slice. I wish I had the recipe because the buns are really good!
There's also a kitchen museum in the basement. The building that exists now dates back to 1480 and claims to be the oldest house in Bath. In the kitchen museum in the basement you can see the floor level from Roman to medieval times to modern. Their website says “Seven separate floor levels have been discovered, each containing bone pottery debris. A prize exhibit is part of a fine green glazed face Jug made at Laverstock, near Salisbury. The lowest floor level can be dated to around 1150 and rests on rubble containing rich pink burnt stone from the fire of 1137.” They also show Sally Lunn cooking in her Georgian kitchen.

Bath is a really nice little city. It's beautiful, clean and very walkable (if you can walk up and down hills). There's so much to see and so, you really need to spend a few days to a week exploring and shopping. Though I was there for a few days, I could have used a few more days to explore. The people were all friendly and willing to help. I liked being called "madam" as if I were a grand lady in Jane Austen's time. I would love to go back again some day. 


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