"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 27, 2017 by Sioux under General


Since the year 757 a church has stood on the site of the Bath Abbey and in 973 the first King of England, King Edgar was crowned here. Bath being a Roman city, the Abbey, built in 1499, is a latecomer. It is one of the largest examples of perpendicular gothic architecture in the West Country. As it was to serve as a monastic church, it was built in the shape of a cross, which had become relatively rare in parish churches of the time. The building has 52 windows, occupying about 80 percent of the wall space. As with a number of buildings in Bath, the abbey sustained damage during WW2, but has been repaired. 

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The tower of the Norman Cathedral, built in 1091, stood in this spot.

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Founded as a Benedictine monastery, the beautiful medieval Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, or commonly referred to as Bath Abbey, is a central landmark in the city. Its tall Gothic spires can be seen from much of the city and its exterior yellowish colour is from the Bath stone with which it was built. 

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Interesting external detail is of the sculptures of the angels climbing to heaven on two stone ladders, although one angel is seen climbing back down representing a “descent through the vice of pride”. The carvings on the front of the Abbey show the dream of Bishop Oliver King who had it built (it was the last Tudor church in Britain before the Reformation). Angels climbed up and down a ladder to heaven in his vision, but the only way the stonemasons could distinguish between them was to make the downwardly mobile ones do it head-first. 

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Tomb of Jane wife of Sir William Waller, who commanded the Parliamentary forces against the Royalists in 1643. Although he made provision for his own burial here when he erected this tomb, he was buried in a Westminster Chapel.

There are over 1,500 plaques, tombs

and memorials in the Abbey. Ledger

stones (flat stones placed over a grave

inside a church), carved with the name and dates

of the person [or people] buried underneath line the floors. The stones often include other

relevant information and a family coat-of-arms if there was one. Most date back to the 1600 & 1700’s and are the only remaining record of the people they commemorate. 

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The alabaster tomb of James Montague, elected

Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1608 – 1616. The effigy is one of only two in England vested as Prelate of the Order of the Garter. Dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England’s patron saint, the Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded in 1348 and regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry (though inferior to the military Victoria Cross and George Cross) in England and the United Kingdom.  

An organ has been situated in the north transept since 1868. Previous organs were located on the north side of the choir and even in a gallery in the middle of the Abbey. In 1942, during WW2, bombs dropped by German air raids blew in many of the Abbey’s windows, including the great East Window and the windows of the north transept around the organ. The organ appeared undamaged at the time,  however, six years later, it was found that glass  splinters from the windows had in fact damaged the   instrument and repairs began in 1948, and were       completed in 1949. The total cost of the repairs         was £3500 (about £80,000 today). Refurbishments   were again required in the 1972, and by the 1990’s it the organ was in serious need of further work.   

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The brass eagle lectern is a memorial donated in memory of Lord Alexander George Boteville Thynne, DSO, MP, the youngest son of the 4th Marquess of Bath. It was unveiled in 1923 as part of the dedication of a new war memorial chapel in the Abbey.  

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Inside the abbey, the fan vaulted

ceilings are spectacular. Created in the 1500’s by the King’s master stone masons, it was intriguing to see that only one stone block, inserted into a crucial position, holds each of the ceilings together; one per fan. We were showed a block when we climbed the 212 steps up to the top of the bell tower. A hectic climb but we were rewarded with a fabulous view of the city below, viewed from a narrow walkway between the roof and the edge of the building. 

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The Guildhall, viewed from the roof of the abbey.

The abbey has a peal of ten bells. In 1700 the old peal of six bells was replaced by a new peal of eight. All but the tenor bell still survive. In 1770 two lighter bells were added to create a peal of ten bells. The tenor weighs 1,688 kg. Hearing church bells toll is a magnificent sound, but deafening when you are standing in the bell tower, which is we were when the bells tolled the four o’ clock hour! An amazing experience though. Nowadays, when there are no bell ringers available, the bells are rung electronically! 

Being on the inside of the clock face was fascinating. The positioning of the joinery was crucial, as each join had to be centered or cut to fit behind the numerals of the clock face so they didn’t show from the outside! 

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The 1.5m ‘Rebecca Fountain’ outside of the Abbey was carved from Sicilian marble, and has a pennant stone base. It was installed in 1861 and has the inscriptions WATER IS BEST and TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY on its bases. 

The Abbey viewed from the Roman Baths

By the time I got back to the B&B, I had waked a total of 8.6kms, and then some if the stairway up to the top of the cathedral bell tower is included. My feet were not happy by the time I made my way back home, via the Royal Victoria Park. Subconsciously I was hoping I would awake to a rainy day so I had an excuse not to go anywhere, but the Roman Baths were a trip on their own, so out I would go! 

Obelisk, in Royal Victoria Park, at the Victoria Majority Monument. Built in 1837, to commemorate Victoria’s 18th birthday. 


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3 responses to “New roads, new adventures – exploring Bath – part 4”

  1. Pauline Smith says:

    wow – those glass windows are fantastic …

  2. Cheryl Wilkinson says:

    Great pics wow! Love the info, you have incredible stamina – all that walking!

  3. Paul says:

    Ahhhh….. as always the stained glass windows.Thank you.

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