Britain’s only natural hot spring is a focus for Georgian splendour
Bath is one of Britain’s Georgian gems, matched only perhaps by Edinburgh's New Town. A magnet for tourists, the elegance and simplicity of the Georgian style and streetscapes remain largely unchanged at the heart of the city.
Originally founded by the Romans as a thermal spa in 70 AD, in the Middle Ages Bath developed into an important centre for the wool industry. Later, in the Georgian period, Bath emerged as a playground for those coming to ‘take the waters’ and dance in the majestic Pump Room.
Nowhere in Bath is quite as eye-catching as the magnificent Royal Crescent and this circle of Georgian houses, the King’s Circus. The idea behind Bath’s design was quite revolutionary at the time. It was to create a town that integrated grand neo-classical architecture, within good urban design and its landscape setting.
Inspired by Rome
The main architect of the Georgian town, John Wood the Elder, had an extraordinary vision for Bath. He was the son of a builder, but saw himself as an architect, not an artisan. He was inspired by the Colosseum in Rome. He was also reportedly fascinated by prehistoric stone circles and the occult - mysterious symbols are said to adorn the façades of the houses.
Back in the 1700s, all the buildings would have been carefully constructed by hand, employing a large and skilled workforce of master craftsmen and stonemasons. Today, such crafts are kept alive by painstaking conservation work to historic buildings here and elsewhere in Britain.
During the Second World War, Bath was identified as a target for Luftwaffe bombing raids. The city was selected from a Baedeker tourist guide for its cultural significance, with the Georgian heart of the city as the main target.
Apart from the south side of Queen Square and Lansdown Place East, Bath's neo-classical architecture was spared widespread damage. The impact of the raids, however, was mainly in the suburbs where most of the population lived. More than 19,000 buildings were damaged and some 400 people lost their lives.