Oh, who can ever be tired of Bath?
August 26, 2018
I know it's not going to last, so I want to enjoy today's bright, sunny weather. It isn't a hot day, but if I stand out in the sun long enough, I feel reasonably warm.
We have a few short hours to explore the beautiful city of Bath before we move to our next destination. Our time in Britain is fast disappearing, and we're trying to cram in as much as possible over the next few days. Perhaps we should stop watching the documentaries on BBC 2, because each night we find another place we have to add to our holiday bucket list.
But first, we jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus on the Grand Parade, which is like a bridge overlooking the River Avon below. There is much activity on the water. A tourist boat is taking sightseers on short cruises along the river, whilst paddle-boarders and surfboard riders skim the water's surface, taking advantage of the sunny day.
It's hard not to notice the creamy-coloured buildings, which dominate the streets of Bath. Its warm colouring gives the city its distinctive appearance. Apparently it's too porous to use in London as it is absorbent and the high level of pollution may destroy the stone. Here, in Bath, however, it has been used all over the city. Bath Stone, as it's called, has been used for all public buildings, bridges, and churches in this World Heritage City and it sets Bath apart from all of the cities we have visited to date. It's warmth is in direct contrast to the grey and brown stone we have encountered in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Bath is an elegant city, but its development has been literally buried beneath layers of history. Yesterday's excursion into the Roman Baths has shown that beneath the beautiful and historic buildings in their own right, is a city built in the third century. Beneath that, I'm sure are villages and towns built by neolithic indigenous people. However, today, we are looking at what is above ground and what we are able to see from the top of our bus.
We pass the Brunel-designed railway station, which is in the centre of the retail area of the town. Built in 1840, Brunel's railway bridge, which connects Bath Spa to nearby Bristol is an engineering masterpiece. Brunel's railway bridges and station buildings are used to this day throughout the Southeast region. Interestingly, there had been a rumour that Brunel's box tunnel, which was built between Bath and Chippenham, had been aligned with the rising sun on his birthday, April 9. It remains to be proven.
The warm-coloured stone and Palladian-style architecture introduced by John Wood and his son, John Wood in their elegant terraced townhouses add an atmosphere of wealth to Bath. Roman-style pillars and porticos grace the facades of the townhouses, whilst the homes behind the facades had been designed and built by other builders. The Woods' were facade-builders only and the saying, Queen Anne front and Sally Anne back originates from this town and these architects. John Woods, the Elder is responsible for The Circus. Based on Stonehenge, The Circus is divided into three segments of equal length with a lawn in the centre. Each segment faces one of the three entrances, ensuring a classical facade is always presented straight ahead. Each of the three floors of the houses features a column; Doric at the bottom, Ionic in the middle, and the elaborate Corinthian at the top. John Wood, the Elder died shortly after the project began so his son, John Wood, the Younger, completed The Circus to his father's strict plans. The other of the most famous townhouse development is the Royal Crescent, which was designed by John Woods the Younger.
Bath's reputation for being the centre of culture, attracting the upper-classes is due to one historical figure, Beau Nash, who appointed himself Master of Ceremonies. Apparently a 'plain' man, he dressed flamboyantly and played a leading role in making Bath the most fashionable resort in 18th century England. He also has the reputation of being the 'father of good manners', due to his insistence that all residences follow a strict code of conduct.
The history of the city is extensive and we don't have much time left as we leave the bus and return to collect our luggage. We've had a quick overview of the history and characters of Bath, but it only scratches the surface of many layers. We do have to return to Bath next week, so maybe we'll have time to explore some more.
Our next adventure starts this afternoon as we drive to Portsmouth for some medieval British Naval history.
Title Quote: Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey)
Accommodation: Holiday Inn, Pembroke Rd, Portsmouth PO1 2TA, UK