Rarely can you find so much to see and do in such a small geographical area as in Bath Centre. World class museums, including the Roman Baths and the internationally renowned Museum of Costume, are so numerous that little gems such as the Book Binding Museum are easily overlooked. An important site of historical and cultural origins, the centre is home to Bath Abbey, site of 1600+ years of religious activity, and the Theatre Royal is home to pre-London tours and local productions alike. Music, literature and Shakespeare Festivals highlight the busy diary of activities, and pubs, clubs and various music and comedy venues (and buskers!) are plentiful. Around every corner you can find excellent dining options, and if you're bent on shopping, you can't go wrong; Bath has all the big names as well as a complete range of independent merchants, all within easy walking distance of one another. Both train and bus stations provide easy access to all the Centre has to offer.
Privileged living and private houses are Lansdown trademarks. Beckford's Tower, Lansdown Horse Racing Course and spacious playing fields are prominent sites, as well as a Ministry of Defence property. The Kingswood School and Preparatory School, and the Royal High School are popular sites for the education of ministers-to-be and antique shops litter the streets. Lansdown Park-and-Ride offers easy access alternatives into the centre.
Old village life thrives here, a short walk from the centre. Everything you could need from delicatessen to hardware shop to the corner butcher is here, and the best part is, it's off the main road! The housing is a mixture of old and new and ranges across income levels, and a church-community run coffee shop is a local meeting place. Several pubs and the Rondo Theatre keep the night alive and takeaway food options abound.
Oldfield Park and Bear Flat:
A diverse area of Bath and just a short walk from the centre, Oldfield Park has a wide range of housing, from terraced housing at the lower end of Oldfield Road up through semi-detached to the houses and private properties which figure prominently on the upper road. Moorland Road is the main shopping area in Oldfield Park and is bedecked with flowers during the summer. The Bear Pub, with the polar bear on the roof is an easy landmark among the Bear Flat shops, and the Real Meat Company offers an excellent selection of organic and humanely raised meat.
Slightly isolated on the banks of the river Avon, the area has mainly local authority housing and small shops. The Waggon and Horses and Whiteheart Pub are good night spots. The Poplar Nurseries and Patio Centre and several farms are evidence of a more rural lifestyle.
Weston and Newbridge:
West of the city centre is an area of middle-income housing and suburban shops - check out Chelsea Road for hairdressers aplenty and the best bakery in Bath. Locksbrook Cemetery is an integral part of the landscape, as is Victoria Park, a huge, safe play area for hordes of energetic children. Pubs and eateries, including the award winning Dolphin Inn, and the Michelin-starred Lettonie can be found in this area. Also located here is the Royal United Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the Avon region.
North East Somerset and outlying areas:
Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) county's main geographical feature is the river Avon which, with the Kennet and Avon canal, has formed a historically important base for industry as it curls through the hills on its way to the mouth of the Severn at Bristol. Bath is the centrepiece for visitors, though many opportunities in more rural settings lie waiting to be discovered. The county is also home to Newton St. Loe, a quaint old village with properties and lands owned and maintained by the Prince of Wales.
'A river runs through it,' this one-time home to wool, cloth, and rubber industries. Eight miles from Bath, Bradford-on-Avon's central landmark is the ancient bridge over the Avon. The Saxon town is bordered by the Kennet and Avon Canal and is packed with listed buildings, including a well-preserved Saxon church. Industrial works are still an important feature, as are large recreation grounds and several golf courses. Opportunities to visit small historical houses and sites are plentiful.
Located in the county of Wiltshire and about six miles northeast of Bath, Corsham is a historic market town with a quaint pedestrian shopping area including some speciality shops such as Elegance Bridal Wear. Housing is varied with some new developments. Pubs include the Northey Arms on the outskirts, and the Hare and Hounds in the centre; the Methuen Arms Hotel provides central accommodation. The town is bordered by Pickwick Lodge farm and a military training base. By all means stop to see historic Corsham Court, a Royal Manor in the days of Saxon Kings and surrounded by extensive landscapes cultivated by Capability Brown.
Bustling with small town energy, Keynsham is ideally positioned between Bristol and Bath. High street shops, health and garden centres serve local families and retirees. Off the high street are middle-income houses in a suburban setting; the lifestyle is relaxed. A retreat at the Grange Hotel off the A4 will please those who want a quiet holiday, but for good night life, head to Bath or Bristol.
A surprisingly large and lively town centre, Midsummer Norton boasts good shopping opportunities, including the Holly Court Arcade and other high street shops. A sports centre and the Mallards Pub are frequented by locals, while the Old Priory Hotel allows the visitor to experience luxury outside Bath. New housing and industrial units testify to development of the area, while old industry is represented by the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trackbed Trust.
This old mining town between Bath and Wells has a large shopping district and lively centre. The Radstock Museum offers a glimpse into local history and industry.
Peasedown St. John:
Two to three miles outside of Bath lies this old village centre with its Wagon and Horses Pub and main street shops. A recent boom in middle-income housing has transformed the area into little more than a satellite station for commuters to Bath; a local youth club tries to keep the younger generation busy. The suburban sprawl has not quite spread to its neighbour closer to Bath, Dunkerton, where you'll find the Titfield Thunderbolt Pub, named after the famous train.
Whether you choose to stay within the city itself, or choose a base in a more rural location, you can be assured of a warm welcome and the kind of hospitality that has become a trademark of the West Country.
History of BathBath owes its name, its history, indeed its very existence, to the hot mineral waters that rise at the King's Spring and two others nearby, never varying in temperature or quantity, producing 500,000 gallons of 120 degree Fahrenheit water per day (that's 6 gallons a second, 360 per minute, 21,000 per hour, and more than 182 million per year) since ... well, a very long time ago indeed.
Tudor and Jacobean Bath
Never highly partisan in its politics, Bath was as happy to welcome the new King, William of Orange, called in from the low countries when the Jacobean line proved intransigently Catholic in its sympathies. Bath was a nationally important resort, capable of handling the seasonal influx of patients and tourists and the occasional Royal visit, but its population of 3000 within the medieval walls could not offer much in the way of entertainments, other than the baths themselves, and visitors were charged exorbitant rates for poor accommodation in overcrowded inns. There was no Pump Room, no Assembly Rooms, and only the occasional ball in the restricted space of the old Guildhall. But all this was to change at the start of the Georgian era.
First and foremost was Richard 'Beau' Nash, who in his fifty years reign as King of Bath and Master of Ceremonies, turned the city into a centre of fashion, of gaming (which Nash made fashionable for women as well as men) and of manners - in time anybody who was anybody had to be seen in Bath, and the city attracted a veritable 'Who's Who' of 18th century society. A dandy and a rake, who made his money gambling and by presents from women, Beau Nash might seem a strange civic leader, but he also spared no effort to sponsor a hospital of international repute even today for the treatment of rheumatic diseases, and many had cause to be grateful for his kindness. It's almost impossible to overstate his influence - among many other things, he was responsible for the pageant that greeted William of Orange, and persuaded the Corporation to build a new Pump Room. Perhaps more than anything else, Nash promoted a 'classless society' so successfully that during his 'reign' Royalty and mere gentlefolk mixed on equal footing. Nash was, according to Goldsmith, 'the first who diffused a desire for society and an easiness of address among a whole people' and this new openness spread out from Bath so that 'the whole kingdom became more refined by lessons originally learned from him.' So great was his influence that when Beau Nash died in 1761 the entire city mourned his passing.
And his influence on matters of taste and fashion can surely be seen in the movement toward what was both beautiful and useful in buildings, so that he, along with Ralph Allen and John Wood the Elder, promoted the fashion for Palladian building that came to characterise the Georgian city. The spirit of Wood, the architect, and the builders who followed him, created a city whose feeling of cohesion depends on a common material (Bath stone), a common idiom (Palladian style), a common scale and a 'neighbourliness' of building to building - a reflection in stone of the varied but cohesive society that Nash had made. The man whose patronage backed with both money and influence much of this building, and also provided the stone from his own quarries, was Ralph Allen, prototype of Squire Allworthy in Fielding's Tom Jones. Andreas Palladio, of course, was strongly influenced by the buildings of the Greeks and Romans, and so in a sense Bath came full circle, and its Georgian heyday mirrored in architecture, manners and morals the sophisticated, pleasure-loving and somewhat decadent Roman Bath of 1800 years previous.
Nineteenth Century Bath
The railway and the canal system both touched Bath, of course, and it became more residential and industrial than previously, but generally Bath had a rough time financially through most of the 1800s. Therefore the temporary revival of spas, following the fashion on the continent, was of great economic importance. Gone were the days of merely wallowing in and drinking the waters, however. Now to get the benefit, one had to have it atomised or vaporised or sprayed or jetted, or injected into you or given along with electric shocks! There had to be Inhalation, Humage and Spray Rooms, Needle and Sitz Baths. The old baths were totally outmoded, besides being in 'a state of decay', so the Corporation roused itself and presented the city in 1889 with re-designed King's and Queen's Baths and a new suite in Bath Street, and with these came the fashion for grand hotels. It was while making these new baths that the Roman Baths were revealed, and these were given the Victorian's idea of a suitable Romanesque setting with a colonnade and statues.
Twentieth Century Bath
Into The Future
Bath bids fair to be the jewel in the crown of the West Country, if not of Britain as a whole. Jewel-like in the topaz glow of its buildings, built from warm honey-coloured Bath stone. Jewel-like in its bejoux size - a pocket Venus of a city, small and compact but all the better for that - a walker's city, unfolding its delights round every bend and up every tiny cul-de-sac. Jewel-like in its setting, tucked among the hills along the banks of the River Avon. Jewel-like in the abundance of glittering shops, ranging from some of the most mouth-watering antique stores in a country famed for its antiques to the finest fashion emporiums and the most esoteric one-off shops selling beautiful things that cost from mere pence to a king's ransom. Finally jewel-like in the splendour of its incomparable Roman baths, its glorious Gothic abbey, its fabulous Royal Crescent and many other glorious ornaments. Bath is superb - if it were a jewel, it would be a jewel beyond price.
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