"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on September 24, 2017 by Sioux under General
1 Comment

 

An early morning out, as I was headed into the city. There were a few clouds above, but loads of blue sky and I was taking full advantage as there was a lot I wanted to see. Taking my usual path under the Twerton viaduct, alongside the Avon, I wandered my way into the city, taking in the sights along the way. The buildings and homes in Bath all have a yellowish tinge, having been built from “Bath stone” limestone originally obtained from mines in Somerset. The warm, honey colouring gives buildings in Bath a very distinctive appearance. An important feature of this specific stone is that it is a ‘freestone’, so-called because it can be sawn or ‘squared up’ in any direction, unlike other rocks such

as slate, which form distinct layers. 

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The Victoria Bridge, built in

1836, is an excellent

example of double

cantilever suspension bridge.

The bridge was initially used

for horses and carts; and

later, cyclists and pedestrians.

It has a span of 45.7m with

the chains slung from Bath-stone towers. James Dredge, a brewer in Bath, designed

the bridge to carry beer from his brewery across the Avon River without using a ferry

or having to detour through the city centre; and his design was considered “a very significant yet relatively short-lived phase in suspension bridge development”. When

built, construction cost £1,760; in 2011, restoration costs were estimated at £3 million! 

I did the ‘hop-on-hop-off’ bus tour, as there was so much to see, and with the good weather it was great to sit on the top of the open-topped double decker bus. This also afforded me a fab view point of a lot of the sights. Many of the sidewalks in Bath are ‘raised’ above the                                                    road, on which people of the high society enjoyed parading.                                                  The doors below the sidewalks were the delivery &                                                                servants entrances which led directly into the basements or                                                  kitchens; the main door of the house was at sidewalk level. 

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Norfolk Crescent, a Georgian style terrace, which is known as

Cumberland House, was built between 1793 and 1822. Each

building has five storeys (basement, ground floor, piano nobile,

second floor and attic). The green area in front of the crescent

was originally a formal garden for the residents, surrounded by

railings. The circular building in the corner of the gardens is the

only remaining City Watchman’s Sentry Box, and was restored in 1836. 

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                                                           I walked up to The Royal Victoria Park which was opened in 1830 by the then 11-year-old Princess Victoria, and was the first park to carry her name. The park is overlooked by the Royal Crescent and covers 57 acres in total, including a 9-acre botanical garden and ancient bandstand.
 

At the main entrance to The Royal Victoria Park is The Bath War Memorial. On the left hand pillar is a memorial to the city’s civilian residents killed during bombing raid in 1941 and the Bath Blitz of 1942. I never went into the park, deciding that I would walk through there on my way back to the B&B.

 

I meandered on to the bus stop to

wait for the next hop-on / hop-off tour.

 

It was way easier driving through the

streets, than walking, and once I had

done a full tour, I would go back and

walk where I wanted to.

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The buildings on Milsom Street, built in 1762, were originally grand

town houses, but most are now used as shops, offices and banks.

As a fashionable Georgian thoroughfare, Milsom Street is quoted in several of Jane Austen’s works, including Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.  

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Tiring of the bus tour, I headed out on foot. The obelisk in the centre of Queens Square

was erected in 1738, in honour of Frederick, Prince of Wales. 

 

It originally stood 21m high, but during a severe wind storm in 1815 it was shortened

                when the top bits were blown off. Other damage to the square happened

                during WWII , during the Bath Blitz.when a 500kg bomb landed on the east                       side of the square and damaged most of the buildings.

 

                Although the buildings have been restored, there are still some signs

                of the bombings.

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Granite horse trough, built in 1905. 

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A small garden now fills the trough of what was a “free” public drinking fountain, dating back to 1860. The design reflects the architects’ love of Venetian décor. 

I eventually found the Royal Crescent, one of the most recognized

buildings in Bath. Designed by both John Wood the Elder and his son,

John Wood the Younger, it is an outstanding example of the architecture of the period. The crescent has remained almost unchanged since it was built between 1767 and 1775 as a long, semi-circular collection of 30 magnificent homes. One of the houses is now an hotel, another is a museum, the rest are still private homes. The whole building has also been used as a backdrop for many films and television programs set in the Georgian time period. From there I headed back towards the river and the cathedral.

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A wrong turn whilst trying to find the “Royal Crescent”, I found myself walking up

one of the steepest hills in Bath; and the place I was looking for, unbeknown to

me, a way off and below me, but obscured by the tall trees in the park I landed

up in! The 5-acre Hedgemead Park came about when the houses below a large

housing crescent collapsed in 1889 due to a landslide. The layout of the paths

and terrain on the park were specifically to prevent the possibility of future landslides.

Making my way back down the hillside, I passed a number of interesting buildings. Walcot Chapel is a former mortuary chapel, sometimes referred to as Walcot Village Hall. A former church burial ground, the chapel is now a very popular venue for art exhibitions. 

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People have gathered to worship on the site of St Swithin’s since the middle ages. The first church was built soon after 971AD and dedicated to the memory of Swithin, Bishop of Winchester from 852 to 862; and the foundations of the original church still lie beneath the floor of the crypt. The Saxon church was badly damaged by storms in 1739; and rebuilt in 1742, but by 1787 became too small to accommodate all the worshipers, and was extended by adding two bays. A classical spire, was added in

1790 to the existing tower, and St Swithin’s became the parish church of Georgian Bath. 

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The Parade Gardens were once orchards belonging to monks of the abbey, and were laid out as ornamental gardens in 1737. The statue of the Angel of Peace in the gardens is dedicated to King Edward VII’s acts of diplomacy in Europe. 

                                                 Pulteney Bridge, completed in 1774, was built to resemble the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. By the end of the 18th century it had been damaged by floods, but was rebuilt to a similar design. It is one of only four bridges in the world to have shops built into its original design.

 

The current weir, the scene of Javert’s suicide in the film version of Les Misérables, was constructed in 1968 – 1972 as part of a flood-prevention scheme.

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I had spotted the church of St. Michael’s Without while on the bus tour, so walked back to see inside. It originally stood on the outside of the walls of the medieval city of Bath. The building is the fourth on this site, dating from 1837 and was consecrated just 5 months before Queen Victoria came to the throne. 

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There is no record of the

building of the first church and

little detail of its appearance,

other than that it was situated

outside the North gate. In 1137

much of Bath, including the Abbey, was destroyed in a great fire and subsequently rebuilt. The church was dedicated to St. Michael, in the belief that the Archangel stands guard over places where the devil is likely to cause trouble. A second church was built sometime between 1370 and 1400, with many parts of the previous building being incorporated into the new designs. 

By 1730 the second church was in very poor repair and a third church was erected in 1738 – 1835. Due to structural defects the third church was demolished in 1835 and construction of the present building began in the same year. After being used as an air raid shelter and surviving the bombing of Bath during WW2, little changed within the church until the 1980’s when the crypt was opened and converted to a space still used for a huge range of activities. After more than 900 years, St. Michael’s Without now stands in the heart of the city it was once outside. 

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The Manvers Street Baptist Church was built in 1871-1872 using squared rock faced Bath limestone with freestone dressings and Welsh slate roofs. It is now also used as an “Open House meeting centre” and

houses a small café. 

Wandering the streets, I came across The Saracens Head Tavern is said to

be the oldest pub in Bath. Built in 1713 on the site of a much older inn, the

name of the pub originates from enemies of the Crusader’s – The Saracens.

Although not officially a ‘coaching inn’, or coach stop-over, it was a stop off

point for the London Flyer Coach, with whom one could travel to London, via

Basingstoke and Andover. Charles Dickens stayed there in 1835 when he

was working as a Parliamentary reporter. Although the building has changed

over the years [the current dining room was originally the stables] the bar ceiling and windows in the centre of the pub are the originals. 

In 1881 the landslide that destroyed 175 houses opposite the church (where Hedgemead Park is situated) damaged the church building swell and it had to be strengthened. Most of these alterations have disappeared in subsequent refurbishments. St Swithin’s is the only remaining 18th Century parish church in Bath.  

The “Laura fountain” at the end of Great Pulteney Street – one of the most celebrated Georgian streets in the world – was not part of the original plan when the street was built. In 1877 residents successfully raised significant funds to build a column, similar to Nelson’s Column in London. As construction started, they realised the column would tower over the area and would be much taller than the houses, so the construction was cancelled. After some negotiations, the column was pulled down and the much smaller fountain added instead. The outside structure of the fountain – with pouring edges looking like cigarette rests – was added in 1977, giving the structure the nickname of ‘the ashtray’. 

At the end of Great Pulteney Street is The Holburne Museum, a Georgian building with modern extensions, housing a Victorian collection of ornate silver and the artworks of Old Masters. 

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The Guildhall in central Bath was built between 1775 and 1778 originally as a town hall and has never served as the meeting place of any specific guild. It has been suggested that the name stems from the Anglo Saxon word “gild”, or “payment”; the guildhall being where citizens came to pay their rates. The Bath Guildhall Market is the oldest shopping venue in the city and currently houses 20 or so stalls, ranging from health & bodycare to hardware and haberdashery. 

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Thimble Mill Pumping Station was vital to the working of the canal as it pumped water up from the river, replacing the water that was lost each time a boat went through the locks. A second pump lifts the water up, a rise of around 20m. There are 7 locks along the River Avon between Bath and Bristol. The various locks on the canal have been operational since 1794. 

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The Bath Botanical Gin Distillery, as well as producing Bath Gin and other drink products such as Hopped Rhubarb, Cucumber & Jasmine, Sloe and Damson gin; is open to the public and provide tours and gin making classes. The distillery also creates vermouths, absinths, bitters, tonic water and even beauty products. The quirky business is the brainchild of former science teacher whose lightbulb moment came following a degree in western herbal medicine. A 2.5m copper still assists in the production of delicious, tasty, medicinal gin. 

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The Old Bridge and Brunel’s railway viaduct, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, thought to be one of the most important transport engineers and architects of the 19th century. 

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Sham Castle is a folly which overlooks the city.

Despite looking like the front of a castle, it is in fact only a screen wall with a central pointed arch, flanked by two 3-storey circular turrets, which extend sideways to a 2-storey square tower at each end of the wall. It is said to have been designed around 1755 and built in 1762. Built to be viewed only from the front, Sham Castle at the rear looks simply like a very old brick wall.  

Jane Austen lived at #4, Sydney House from 1801 – 1805. Although outside the hustle and bustle of the centre of Bath, the good sized terrace house was within walking distance by crossing over Pulteney Bridge. 

The gravel walk is mentioned in many of Jane Austen’s novels and it is said that she spent many hours here, whilst writing new stories. 

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My legs were tiring by the time I headed for the cathedral, so I stopped to relax, people watch and listen to the buskers in the church courtyard before starting my tour.  

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One response to “New roads, new adventures – exploring Bath part 3”

  1. Cheryl Wilkinson says:

    Wow lots of exciting info thank you! love your blogs!!

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