Beautiful Bath

2 August 2012

After Stonehenge we hopped back in the mini van and headed to Bath, town of beautiful stone buildings and home of Jane Austen for a number of years.

While the rest of the group went off to do a walking tour, we decided to grab a quick lunch and hit the Roman Baths so that we would have time to visit the Assembly Rooms before we met up with the rest of the group again in the evening.

The Roman Baths

I'd visited Bath 10 years ago, briefly, and I was glad to see the Roman Baths were just as fascinating a second time around. They'd made some changes to the educational displays inside, including the addition of a perspex model of the site umpteen years ago. The spaces inside were absolutely packed with tourists, this being the height of the summer holidays, and so we lowly weaved our way around the exhibits to the Baths outside.

Remains a temple with the image of a Gorgon's head.

The original entrance if I remember correctly.

Roman cloak pin.

Maybe because I'm a little older now, and know a little more (and a lot less!), I'm not so completely bowled over by the fact that these building remains are nearly 2,000 years old. However, I'm still impressed with the level of comfort and technology achieved by these people. For example, they had underfloor heating - something we could do with more of in NZ!

Supports for underfloor heating.

Outside we can clearly see the Roman baths and the extensions added in the 18th Century. The lower section is Roman, the upper Georgian. Originally roofed, the water would have been clear, but exposure to sunlight gives it a green colour.

The Baths from the ground floor.

Famous Roman emperors - Georgian additions.
Can't remember anything about these arches other than I thought they looked purty.

A Roman re-enactor explaining about wax tablets.

Bath Abbey in the background.

The Streets of Bath

On our way from the Roman Baths to the Assembly Rooms we wandered along the beautiful streets of Bath. The city is full of buildings constructed of Bath Stone which, to my eyes used to looking upon wooden and brick buildings, looks all historic and romantic. 

The main shopping streets in Bath.

Entrance to the Roman Baths.

I've been reading Jane Austen's novels for the last few weeks, so it was with particular interest that we passed the Jane Austen Centre.  Jane Austen only lived in Bath for a five years, but set a number of her books in Bath. We didn't have time to go inside, but I was impressed that they had a man standing at the door in full costume.

The Jane Austen Centre.

Another unusual feature of Bath is the Royal Crescent and The Circus - circular rows of Georgian terraced houses. The Circus is a complete circle around a circular park, divided by three streets.

The Circus.
The Royal Crescent is a semicircular set of houses perched on top of a hill overlooking a green park and the city. Beautiful streets rather ruined by the number of cars parked in front of the houses.

The Royal Crescent.

The Assembly Rooms

The Assembly Rooms were built in 1771 and were where the fashionable people came to mingle, dance and play cards. Jane Austen mentions the Assembly Rooms in her novels. The interiors are gorgeous, and I couldn't help but think this would be the ideal place to hold a masquerade ball.

The Assembly Rooms.
The ballroom.

But I was here to see the fashion museum. After we'd waded through the costume exhibit of famous clothes from TV and film, we headed downstairs, past the obligatory nod to the Olympics (sports clothing), and into the real thing.

There were some absolutely gorgeous evening wear and day wear from the last century, but my main interest was the pre 1900 clothing and the progression from one style to the next. Here are a few photos, I won't bore you or take up all your bandwidth with the whole lot. If you want to see the rest, let me know and I'll upload them to Flickr or somewhere.

Court Dress 1760s.

In the main gallery was a display of dresses from every decade from 1800 to 1910. It is easy to see how the fashion moved from empire line dresses in white muslin to tight laced Victorian gowns in vivid colours.

Muslin empire line dress from 1800.

Waists are dropping back to natural height by 1825.

Mid century corset.

1857. Skirts are getting bigger.

1865. The crinoline reduces the weight of all the layers required to achieve the fashionable silhouette.
The crinoline changes shape with more weight to the back.

Skirts narrow again but waist is still at natural height but corseted . 1885.

Shoes, but I can't remember when they are dated to.

Bath Ales

To round off our day in Bath we all met up again at the Hop Pole to sample some famed Baths ales. Bath Ales is a brewery who have been around since 1995 and make a pretty decent drink.

I think we showed our age a bit when it came to tasting the five ales we were to sample. All the girls giggled and disliked anything but the lightest most flavourless sample, and the guys were just interested in drinking as much as possible, while we enjoyed trying each of the ales and Boyd did a good job on guessing the mystery ingredient in each one. 

I also bought a packet of potato chips, er... crisps, which by the label sounded like a strange flavour combination, but tasted pretty damned good. There seem to be a wider variety of flavours for crisps here. Interestingly Boyd has also observed that while they have salt and vinegar here (his favourite flavour) they taste different, a little sweeter, presumably because they use balsamic vinegar while we're guessing NZ uses malt vinegar.

After a couple more drinks we piled back in the van to head home, via Castle Combe, the prettiest village in England.


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