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Bath, Somerset

Aerial view of a semicircular terrace of houses with matching fronts but a variety of different styles at the rear
The Royal Crescent in Bath
Map of Somerset, with a red dot showing the position of Bath in the north east corner
Map of Somerset, with a red dot showing the position of Bath in the north east corner
 Bath shown within Somerset
Population 88,859 [1]
Demonym Bathonian
OS grid reference
   – London  99 miles (159 km) E 
Unitary authority Bath and North East Somerset
Ceremonial county Somerset
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BATH
Postcode district BA1, BA2
Dialling code 01225
Police Avon and Somerset
Fire Avon
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Bath
List of places

Bath ( or ) is a city in Somerset, South West England, 97 miles (156 km) west of London and 13 miles (21 km) south-east of Bristol. In 2011, its population was 88,859.[2] It became part of Avon in 1974; since Avon's abolition in 1996, it has been the principal centre of Bath and North East Somerset.

The city became a Bath Stone.

Bath became a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city's theatres, museums and other cultural and sporting venues have helped to make it a major centre for tourism with more than one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city each year.[5] The city has two universities and there are large service sector, information and communication technology and creative industries.


  • History 1
    • Iron Age and Roman 1.1
    • Post-Roman and Medieval 1.2
    • Early Modern 1.3
    • Late Modern 1.4
  • Governance 2
  • Geography 3
    • Physical geography 3.1
    • Climate 3.2
  • Demographic 4
  • Economy 5
    • Industry 5.1
    • Tourism 5.2
  • Architecture 6
  • Culture 7
    • Bath in the arts 7.1
    • Parks 7.2
    • Bath and Queen Victoria 7.3
    • Food 7.4
  • Education 8
  • Sport 9
  • Transport 10
  • Media 11
  • Twinning 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15


Iron Age and Roman

A late-nineteenth century Photochrom of the Great Bath at the Roman Baths. Pillars tower over the water, and the spires of Bath Abbey – restored in the early sixteenth century – are visible in the background.
A nineteenth century Photochrom of the Great Bath at the Roman Baths. The entire structure above the level of the pillar bases is a later construction, and was not a feature of the building in Roman days.

The hills in the locality such as Bathampton Down saw human activity from the Mesolithic period.[6][7] Several Bronze Age round barrows were opened by John Skinner in the 18th century.[8] Bathampton Camp may have been an Iron Age hill fort or stock enclosure.[9][10] A long barrow site believed to be from the Beaker people was flattened to make way for RAF Charmy Down.[11]

Archaeological evidence shows that the site of the Roman baths' main spring was treated as a shrine by the Britons,[12] and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva; the name Sulis continued to be used after the Roman invasion, appearing in the town's Roman name, Aquae Sulis (literally, "the waters of Sulis").[13] Messages to her scratched onto metal, known as curse tablets, have been recovered from the sacred spring by archaeologists.[14] The tablets were written in Latin, and cursed people by whom the writers felt they had been wronged. For example, if a citizen had his clothes stolen at the baths, he might write a curse, naming the suspects, on a tablet to be read by the goddess.

A temple was constructed in 60–70 AD and a bathing complex was built up over the next 300 years.[3] Engineers drove oak piles into the mud to provide a stable foundation, and surrounded the spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead. In the 2nd century, the spring was enclosed within a wooden barrel-vaulted structure,[12] that housed the calidarium (hot bath), tepidarium (warm bath), and frigidarium (cold bath).[15] The city was later given defensive walls, probably in the 3rd century.[16] After the failure of Roman authority in the first decade of the 5th century, the baths fell into disrepair and were eventually lost as a result of silting.[17]

In March 2012 a hoard of 30,000 silver Roman coins, one of the largest discovered in Britain, was unearthed in an archaeological dig. The coins, believed to date from the 3rd century, were found about 450 feet from the Roman baths.[18]

Post-Roman and Medieval

Bath may have been the site of the Battle of Mons Badonicus (c. 500 AD), in which King Arthur is said to have defeated the Anglo-Saxons.[19] The city fell to the West Saxons in 577 after the Battle of Deorham;[20][20] the Anglo-Saxon poem The Ruin may describe the appearance of the Roman site about this time.[21] A monastery was founded at an early date – reputedly by Saint David, although more probably in 675 by Osric, King of the Hwicce,[22] perhaps using the walled area as its precinct.[23][24] Nennius, a 9th-century historian, mentions a "Hot Lake" in the land of the Hwicce along the Severn, and adds "It is surrounded by a wall, made of brick and stone, and men may go there to bathe at any time, and every man can have the kind of bath he likes. If he wants, it will be a cold bath; and if he wants a hot bath, it will be hot". Bede described hot baths in the geographical introduction to the Ecclesiastical History in terms very similar to those of Nennius.[25] King Offa of Mercia gained control of the monastery in 781 and rebuilt the church, which was dedicated to St. Peter.[26]

Map of Bath by John Speed published in 1610

By the 9th century the old Roman street pattern was lost and Bath was a royal possession. King Alfred laid out the town afresh, leaving its south-eastern quadrant as the abbey precinct.[27] In the Burghal Hidage Bath is described as having walls of 1,375 yards (1,257 m) and was allocated 1000 men for defence.[28] During the reign of Edward the Elder coins were minted in based on a design from the Winchester mint but with 'BAD' on the obverse relating to the Anglo-Saxons name for the town, Baðum, Baðan or Baðon, meaning "at the baths,"[29] and this was the source of the present name. Edgar of England was crowned king of England in Bath Abbey in 973.[30]

William Rufus granted the city to a royal physician, John of Tours, who became Bishop of Wells and Abbot of Bath,[31][32] following the sacking of the town during the Rebellion of 1088.[33] It was papal policy for bishops to move to more urban seats, and he translated his own from Wells to Bath.[34] He planned and began a much larger church as his cathedral, to which was attached a priory, with the bishop's palace beside it.[31] New baths were built around the three springs. Later bishops returned the episcopal seat to Wells, while retaining the name Bath in the title, Bishop of Bath and Wells. St John's Hospital was founded around 1180, by Bishop Reginald Fitz Jocelin and is among the oldest almshouses in England.[35] The 'hospital of the baths' was built beside the hot springs of the Cross Bath, for their health giving properties and to provide shelter for the poor infirm.[36]

Administrative systems fell within the hundreds. The Bath Hundred had various names including the Hundred of Le Buri. The Bath Foreign Hundred or Forinsecum covered the area outside the city and was later combined into the Bath Forum Hundred. Wealthy merchants had no status within the hundred courts and formed guilds to gain influence. They built the first guildhall probably in the 13th century. Around 1200 the first mayor was appointed.[37]

Early Modern

By the 15th century, Bath's abbey church was badly dilapidated[38] and Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells, decided to rebuild it on a smaller scale in 1500. The new church was completed just a few years before Bath Priory was dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII.[39] The abbey church became derelict before being restored as the city's parish church in the Elizabethan era, when the city experienced a revival as a spa. The baths were improved and the city began to attract the aristocracy. It was granted city status by Royal charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1590.[40]

During the English Civil War, the city was garrisoned for Charles I. Seven thousand pounds was spent on fortifications but on the appearance of parliamentary forces, the gates were thrown open and the city surrendered. It became a significant post for the New Model Army under William Waller.[41] It was retaken by royalists following the Battle of Lansdowne fought on the northern outskirts of the city on 5 July 1643.[42] Thomas Guidott, a student of chemistry and medicine at Wadham College, Oxford, set up a practice in the town in 1668. He was interested in the curative properties of the waters and he wrote A discourse of Bathe, and the hot waters there. Also, Some Enquiries into the Nature of the water in 1676. It brought the health-giving properties of the hot mineral waters to the attention of the country and the aristocracy arrived to partake in them.[43]

Aerial photograph of semicircular terrace of stone buildings with large expanse of grass in front and to the left. Also shows surrounding terraces of buildings.

Several areas of the city were developed in the

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Bath travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Official tourist information
  • Bath at DMOZ
  • Bath in the Domesday Book
  • Bath by Gildas: etymology

External links

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See also

Bath is twinned with five other cities and has an historic partnership agreement with Manly, New South Wales, Australia.[175][176]


Bath is sometimes covered by Bristol's local media, including Bristol Live Magazine.

Radio stations broadcasting to the city include The Breeze on 107.9FM and Heart West Country (formerly GWR FM) as well as The University of Bath's University Radio Bath, a student-focused radio station available on campus and also online,[173] and Classic Gold 1260 a networked commercial radio station with local programmes.[174]

For television, Bath is served by the BBC West studios based in Bristol, and by ITV West (formerly HTV) with studios similarly in Bristol.[172]

The BBC Somerset website has featured coverage of news and events within Bath since 2003.[171]

Bath's local newspaper is the Bath Chronicle, owned by Local World. Published since 1760, the Chronicle was a daily newspaper until mid-September 2007, when it became a weekly.[170]


A transportation study (the Bristol/Bath to South Coast Study) was published in 2004, after being initiated by the Government Office for the South West and Bath and North East Somerset Council.[168] It was undertaken by WSP Group[168] as a result of the de-trunking in 1999 of the A36/A46 trunk road network[169] from Bath to Southampton.

The Bath Tramways Company was introduced in the late 19th century opening on 24 December 1880. The 4 ft (1,219 mm) gauge cars were horse-drawn along a route from London Road to the Bath Spa railway station, but the system closed in 1902. It was replaced by electric tram cars on a greatly expanded 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) gauge system that opened in 1904. This eventually extended to 18 miles (29 km) with routes to Combe Down, Oldfield Park, Twerton, Newton St Loe, Weston and Bathford. There was a fleet of 40 cars, all but 6 being double deck. The first line to close was replaced by a bus service in 1938, and the last went on 6 May 1939.[167]

Bath is served by the Bath Spa railway station (designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel), which has regular connections to London Paddington, Bristol Temple Meads, Cardiff Central, Cheltenham, Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance (see Great Western Main Line), and also Westbury, Warminster, Salisbury, Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton (see Wessex Main Line). Services are provided by First Great Western. There is a suburban station on the main line, Oldfield Park, which has a limited commuter service to Bristol as well as other destinations. Green Park Station was once the terminus of the Midland Railway,[165] and junction for the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, whose line, always steam hauled, went under Bear Flat through the Combe Down Tunnel and climbed over the Mendips to serve many towns and villages on its 71-mile (114 km) run to Bournemouth. This example of an English rural line was closed by Beeching in March 1966. Its Bath station building, now restored, houses shops, small businesses, the Saturday Bath Farmers Market and parking for a supermarket, while the route of the Somerset and Dorset within Bath is to be reused for the Two Tunnels Greenway, a shared use path that will extend National Cycle Route 24 into the city.[166]

The city is connected to Bristol and the sea by the River Avon, navigable via locks by small boats. The river was connected to the River Thames and London by the Kennet and Avon Canal in 1810 via Bath Locks; this waterway – closed for many years, but restored in the last years of the 20th century – is now popular with narrowboat users.[163] Bath is on National Cycle Route 4, with one of Britain's first cycleways, the Bristol & Bath Railway Path, to the west, and an eastern route toward London on the canal towpath. Bath is about 20 miles (30 km) from Bristol Airport.[164]

Bath is approximately 13 miles (21 km) south-east of the larger city and port of Bristol, to which it is linked by the A4 road, and is a similar distance south of the M4 motorway. In an attempt to reduce the level of car use Park and Ride schemes have been introduced, with sites at Odd Down, Lansdown and Newbridge. In addition a Bus Gate scheme in Northgate aims to reduce private car use in the city centre.[161] National Express operates coach services from Bath Bus Station to a number of cities. Internally, Bath has a network of bus routes run by First Group, with services to surrounding towns and cities. The Faresaver Bus company also operate numerous services to surrounding towns. The Bath Bus Company runs open top double-decker bus tours around the city.[162]

A diesel/electric hybrid bus in Southgate on a Park and Ride service


TeamBath is the umbrella name for all of the University of Bath sports teams, including the aforementioned football club. Other sports for which TeamBath is noted are athletics, badminton, basketball, bob skeleton, bobsleigh, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, netball, rugby union, swimming, tennis, triathlon and volleyball. The City of Bath Triathlon takes place annually at the university.[160]

The Bath Half Marathon is run annually through the city streets, with over 10,000 runners.[159]

Many cricket clubs are based in the city, including Bath Cricket Club, who are based at the North Parade Ground and play in the West of England Premier League. Cricket is also played on the Recreation Ground, just across from where the Rugby is played. The Rec's cricket ground is the venue for the annual Bath Cricket Festival which sees Somerset County Cricket Club play several games. The Recreation Ground is also home to Bath Croquet Club, which was re-formed in 1976 and is affiliated with the South West Federation of Croquet Clubs.[158]

Bath City narrowly missed out on election to the Football League in 1978.[156] Bath also has Non-League football club Odd Down F.C. who play at Lew Hill Memorial Ground.[157]

Bath City F.C. is the major football team. Bath City gained promotion to the Conference Premier from the Conference South in 2010. Bath City F.C. play their games at Twerton Park. Until 2009 Team Bath F.C. operated as an affiliate to the University Athletics programme. In 2002, Team Bath became the first university team to enter the FA Cup in 120 years, and advanced through four qualifying rounds to the first round proper.[153] The university's team was established in 1999, while the city team has existed since before 1908 (when it entered the Western League).[154] However in 2009, the Football Conference ruled that Team Bath would not be eligible to gain promotion to a National division, nor were they allowed to participate in Football Association cup competitions. This ruling led to the decision by the club to fold at the end of the 2008–09 Conference South competition. In their final season, Team Bath F.C. finished 11th in the league.[155]

Bath Rugby is a rugby union team in the Aviva Premiership league. It plays in black, blue and white kit at the Recreation Ground in the city, where it has been since the late 19th century, following its establishment in 1865.[151] The team's first major honour was winning the John Player Cup, now sponsored as the LV Cup and also known as the Anglo-Welsh Cup, four years consecutively from 1984 until 1987.[151] The team then led the Courage league in six seasons in eight years between 1988–89 and 1995–96, during which time it also won the renamed Pilkington Cup in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1996.[151] It finally won the Heineken Cup in the 1997–98 season, and topped the Zürich Premiership (now Aviva Premiership) in 2003–04.[151] The team's squad includes several members who also play, or have played in the English national team including: Lee Mears, Rob Webber, Dave Attwood, Nick Abendanon and Matt Banahan. Colston's Collegiate School, Bristol has had a large input in the team over the past decade, providing several current 1st XV squad members. The former England Rugby Team Manager and former Scotland national coach Andy Robinson used to play for Bath Rugby team and was captain and later coach. Both of Robinson's predecessors, Clive Woodward and Jack Rowell, were also former Bath coaches and managers as well as his successor Brian Ashton.[152]


The city contains one further education college, City of Bath College, and is also home to Norland College, a provider of childcare training and education.[150]

Bath Spa University was first granted degree-awarding powers in 1992 as a university college, before being granted university status in August 2005.[147][148] It delivers Postgraduate Certificate in Education courses. It has schools in the following subject areas: Art and Design, Education, English and Creative Studies, Historical and Cultural Studies, Music and the Performing Arts, Science and the Environment and Social Sciences.[149]

Bath has two universities. The University of Bath was established in 1966.[145] The university was named University of the Year by the Sunday Times (2011) and includes courses for the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, architecture, management and technology.[146]


Bath has lent its name to one other distinctive recipe – Bath Olivers – dry baked biscuit invented by Dr William Oliver, physician to the Mineral Water Hospital in 1740.[142] Oliver was an anti-obesity campaigner and author of a "Practical Essay on the Use and Abuse of warm Bathing in Gluty Cases".[142] In more recent years, Oliver's efforts have been traduced by the introduction of a version of the biscuit with a plain chocolate coating. Bath Chaps, the salted and smoked cheek and jawbones of the pig, takes its name from the city.[143] It is available from a stall in the daily covered market. Bath Ales brewery is located in Warmley and Abbey Ales are brewed in the city.[144]

Several foods have an association with the city. Sally Lunn buns (a type of teacake) have long been baked in Bath. They were first mentioned by name in verses printed in the Bath Chronicle, in 1772.[139] At that time they were eaten hot at public breakfasts in Spring Gardens. They can be eaten with sweet or savoury toppings and are sometimes confused with Bath buns which are smaller, round, very sweet and very rich. They were associated with the city following The Great Exhibition. Bath buns were originally topped with crushed comfits created by dipping caraway seeds repeatedly in boiling sugar; but today seeds are added to a 'London Bath Bun' (a reference to the bun's promotion and sale at the Great Exhibition).[140] The seeds may be replaced by crushed sugar granules or 'nibs'.[141]

Building with large white framed windows.
Sally Lunn's, home of the Sally Lunn bun



Bath and Queen Victoria

Other parks include: Alexandra Park on a hill overlooking the city; Parade Gardens, along the river near the abbey in the ciyty centre; Sydney Gardens, an 18th-century pleasure-garden; Henrietta Park; Hedgemead Park; and Alice Park. Jane Austen wrote that "It would be pleasant to be near the Sydney Gardens. We could go into the Labyrinth every day."[133] Alexandra, Alice and Henrietta parks were built into the growing city among the housing developments.[134] There is a linear park following the old Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway line, and, in a green area adjoining the River Avon, Cleveland Pools were built around 1815.[135] It is now the oldest surviving public outdoor lido in England,[136] and plans have been submitted for its restoration.[137]

Royal Victoria Park, a short walk from the city centre was opened in 1830 by the 11-year-old Princess Victoria, and was the first park to carry her name.[126] The public park is overlooked by the Royal Crescent and covers 23 hectares (57 acres).[127] It has [127] a skatepark, tennis courts, bowling green, a putting green and a 12- and 18-hole golf course, a pond, open air concerts, an annual funfair at Easter,[128] and a children's play area. Much of its area is lawn; a notable feature is a ha-ha that segregates it from the Royal Crescent, while giving the impression from the Crescent of uninterrupted grassland across the park to Royal Avenue. It has a "Green Flag award", the national standard for parks and green spaces in England and Wales, and is registered by English Heritage as of National Historic Importance.[129] The 3.84 hectares (9.5 acres) botanical gardens were formed in 1887 and contain one of the finest collections of plants on limestone in the West Country.[130] The replica of a Roman Temple was used at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924.[131] In 1987 the gardens were extended to include the Great Dell, a disused quarry that contains a collection of conifers.[132]

Large green area with small open sided structure in the middle. Behind is a yellow couloured building.
Parade Gardens


In 2012, Pulteney Weir was used as a replacement location during post production of the film adaptation of Les Misérables. Stunt shots were filmed in October 2012 after footage acquired during the main filming period was found to have errors.[125]

In 2008, 104 decorated pigs were displayed around the city in a public art event called "King Bladud's Pigs in Bath". It celebrated the city, its origins and artists. Decorated pig sculptures were displayed throughout the summer and were auctioned to raise funds for Two Tunnels Greenway.[124]

In August 2003 the Three Tenors sang at a concert to mark the opening of the Thermae Bath Spa, a new hot water spa in the city centre but delays to the project meant the spa opened three years later on 7 August 2006.[123]

Many films and television programmes have been filmed using its architecture as the backdrop including: the 2004 film of Thackeray's Vanity Fair,[122] The Duchess (2008),[122] The Elusive Pimpernel (1950)[122] and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953).[122]

Jane Austen lived here from 1801 with her father, mother and sister Cassandra, and the family resided at four different addresses until 1806.[116] Jane Austen never liked the city, and wrote to Cassandra, "It will be two years tomorrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape."[117] Bath has honoured her name with the Jane Austen Centre and a city walk. Austen's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are set in the city and describe taking the waters, social life, and music recitals. Taking the waters is described in Charles Dickens' novel The Pickwick Papers in which Pickwick's servant, Sam Weller, comments that the water has "a very strong flavour o' warm flat irons". The Royal Crescent is the venue for a chase between two characters, Dowler and Winkle.[118] Moyra Caldecott's novel The Waters of Sul is set in Roman Bath in 72 AD, and The Regency Detective, by David Lassman & Terence James, revolves around the exploits of Jack Swann during the early 1800s.[119] Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals takes place in the city,[120] as does Roald Dahl's chilling short-story, The Landlady.[121]

During the 18th century Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Thomas Lawrence lived and worked in Bath.[112][113] John Maggs, a painter best known for coaching scenes, was born and lived in Bath with his artistic family.[114] William Friese-Greene experimented with celluloid and motion pictures in his studio in the 1870s, developing some of the earliest movie camera technology. He is credited as being the inventor of cinematography.[115]

Bath in the arts

The city is home to the Victoria Art Gallery,[108] the Museum of East Asian Art, and Holburne Museum of Art,[109] numerous commercial art galleries and antique shops, as well as numerous museums, among them Bath Postal Museum, the Fashion Museum, the Jane Austen Centre, the Herschel Museum of Astronomy and the Roman Baths.[110] The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) in Queen Square was founded in 1824 from the Society for the encouragement of Agriculture, Planting, Manufactures, Commerce and the Fine Arts founded in 1777.[111] In September 1864, BRLSI hosted the 34th annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science which was attended by explorers David Livingstone, Sir Richard Francis Burton, and John Hanning Speke.

Bath's five theatres – art deco Forum, originated as a cinema. The city holds the annual Bath International Music Festival and Mozartfest, the annual Bath Literature Festival (and its counterpart for children), the Bath Film Festival, the Bath Fringe Festival, the Bath Beer Festival and the Bath Chilli Festival. The Bach Festivals occur at two and a half-year intervals. An annual Bard of Bath competition aims to find the best poet, singer or storyteller.[107]

Bath became the centre of fashionable life in England during the 18th century when its Old Orchard Street Theatre and architectural developments such as Lansdown Crescent,[103] the Royal Crescent,[104] The Circus and Pulteney Bridge were built.[105]

Yellow/Gray stone bridge with three arches over water which reflects the bridge and the church spire behind. A weir is on the left with other yellow stone buildings behind.
The 18th-century Pulteney Bridge by Robert Adam


Wide image of a symmetrical semicircular terrace of yellow stone buildings. Grass in the foreground.
A panoramic view of the Royal Crescent

[102] It also demands that Bath do more to attract world-class architecture in new developments.[102] saying that the density and volume of buildings in the second and third phases of the development need to be reconsidered.[101] The decision was made let Bath keep its status, but UNESCO has asked to be consulted on future phases of the Riverside development,[100] was reviewed by UNESCO in 2009.World Heritage Site As a result of this and other changes, notably plans for abandoned industrial land along the Avon, the city's status as a [99][98] Controversy has revived perodically, most recently with the demolition of the 1930s Churchill House, a neo-Georgian municipal building originally housing the Electricity Board, to make way for a new [97].The Sack of Bath In the 1960s and early 1970s some parts of Bath were unsympathetically redeveloped, resulting in the loss of some 18th- and 19th-century buildings. This process was largely halted by a popular campaign which drew strength from the publication of Adam Fergusson's

[96][95] The heart of the Georgian city was the

Around 1770 the neoclassical architect Robert Adam designed Pulteney Bridge, using as the prototype for the three-arched bridge spanning the Avon an original, but unused, design by Palladio for the Rialto Bridge in Venice.[92] Thus, Pulteney Bridge became not just a means of crossing the river, but also a shopping arcade. Along with the Rialto Bridge and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, which it resembles, it is one of the very few surviving bridges in Europe to serve this dual purpose.[92] It has been substantially altered since it was built. The bridge was named after Frances and William Pulteney, the owners of the Bathwick estate for which the bridge provided a link to the rest of Bath.[92] The Georgian streets in the vicinity of the river tended to be built high above the original ground level to avoid flooding, with the carriageways supported on vaults extending in front of the houses. This can be seen in the multi-storey cellars around Laura Place South of Pulteney Bridge, in the colonnades below Grand parade, and in the grated coal holes in the pavement of North Parade. In some parts of the city, such as George Street, and London Road near Cleveland Bridge, the developers of the opposite side of the road did not match this pattern, leaving raised pavements with the ends of the vaults exposed to a lower street below.

The most spectacular of Bath's terraces is the Royal Crescent, built between 1767 and 1774 and designed by the younger John Wood.[88] But all is not what it seems; while Wood designed the great curved façade of what appears to be about 30 houses with Ionic columns on a rusticated ground floor, that was the extent of his input. Each purchaser bought a certain length of the façade, and then employed their own architect to build a house to their own specifications behind it; hence what appears to be two houses is sometimes one. This system of town planning is betrayed at the rear of the crescent: while the front is completely uniform and symmetrical, the rear is a mixture of differing roof heights, juxtapositions and fenestration. This "Queen Anne fronts and Mary-Anne backs" architecture occurs repeatedly in Bath.[89] Other fine terraces elsewhere in the city include Lansdown Crescent[90] and Somerset Place on the northern hill.[91]

"The Circus" consists of three long, curved terraces designed by the elder John Wood to form a circular space or theatre intended for civic functions and games. The games give a clue to the design, the inspiration behind which was the Colosseum in Rome.[87] Like the Colosseum, the three façades have a different order of architecture on each floor: Doric on the ground level, then Ionic on the piano nobile and finishing with Corinthian on the upper floor, the style of the building thus becoming progressively more ornate as it rises.[87] Wood never lived to see his unique example of town planning completed, as he died five days after personally laying the foundation stone on 18 May 1754.[87]

[86] were prominent in the city from the 1770s to 1860s.Reeves of Bath The masons [85].servants revival style which became popular in the early 18th century. Many of the prominent architects of the day were employed in the development of the city. The original purpose of much of Bath's architecture is concealed by the honey-coloured classical façades; in an era before the advent of the luxury hotel, these apparently elegant residences were frequently purpose-built lodging houses, where visitors could hire a room, a floor, or (according to their means) an entire house for the duration of their visit, and be waited on by the house's communal Palladian this evolved from the [84] Most buildings in Bath are made from the local, golden-coloured

Ornate yellow stone building with tower, partially obscured by trees.
The Abbey seen from the east

Bath Abbey was a Norman church built on earlier foundations, although the present building dates from the early 16th century and shows a late Perpendicular style with flying buttresses and crocketed pinnacles decorating a crenellated and pierced parapet.[80] The choir and transepts have a fan vault by Robert and William Vertue.[81] The nave was given a matching vault in the 19th century.[82] The building is lit by 52 windows.[83]

There are many Roman archaeological sites throughout the central area of the city, but the baths themselves are about 6 metres (20 ft) below the present city street level. Around the hot springs, Roman foundations, pillar bases, and baths can still be seen, however all the stonework above the level of the baths is from more recent periods.[79]

UNESCO World Heritage Site
City of Bath
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Aerial photograph showing streets and crescents of yellow buildings surrounded by vegetation
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv
Reference 428
UNESCO region Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1987 (11th Session)


In the 2010 Google Street View Best Streets Awards, the Royal Crescent took the second place in the "Britain's Most Picturesque Street" award, first place being given to The Shambles in York. Milsom Street was also awarded "Britain's Best Fashion Street" in the 11,000 strong vote.[77][78]

One of Bath's principal industries is tourism, with more than one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city on an annual basis.[5] The visits mainly fall into the categories of Building of Bath Collection which is housed in a building which was built in 1765 as the Trinity Presbyterian Church. It was also known as the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel, as she lived in the attached house from 1707 to 1791.[74] Two of the hotels have 'five-star' ratings.[75] There are also two campsites located on the western edge of the city. The city also contains about 100 restaurants, and a similar number of public houses and bars. Several companies offer open-top bus tours around the city, as well as tours on foot and on the river. Since 2006, with the opening of Thermae Bath Spa, the city has attempted to recapture its historical position as the only town in the United Kingdom offering visitors the opportunity to bathe in naturally heated spring waters.[76]

Gray paved area with lots of people around brightly dressed performer. To the right is a yellow stone building and in the background the tower of the abbey.
Bath is popular with tourists all year round. The entertainer is performing in front of Bath Abbey; the Roman Baths are to the right.


Bath once had an important manufacturing sector, led by companies such Stothert and Pitt. Nowadays manufacturing is in decline in the city, but it boasts strong software, publishing and service-oriented industries, being home to companies such as Future Publishing and London & Country mortgage brokers. The city's attraction to tourists has also led to a significant number of jobs in tourism-related industries. Important economic sectors in Bath include education and health (30,000 jobs), retail, tourism and leisure (14,000 jobs) and business and professional services (10,000 jobs).[5] Its main employers are the National Health Service, the two universities and the Bath and North East Somerset Council, as well as the Ministry of Defence, although a number of MOD offices formerly in Bath have now moved to Bristol. Growing employment sectors include information and communication technologies and creative and cultural industries where Bath is one of the recognised national centres for publishing,[5] with the magazine and digital publisher Future Publishing employing around 650 people. Others include Buro Happold (400) and IPL Information Processing Limited (250).[73] The city contains over 400 retail shops, 50% being run by independent specialist retailers, and around 100 restaurants and cafes which are primarily supported by tourism.[5]



An inhabitant of Bath is known as a Bathonian.[72]

The district is largely Christian at 71%, with no other religion reaching more than 0.5%. These figures generally compare with the national averages, though the non-religious, at 19.5%, are significantly more prevalent than the national 14.8%. 7.4% of the population describe themselves as "not healthy" in the last 12 months, compared with a national average of 9.2%; nationally 18.2% of people describe themselves as having a long-term illness, in Bath it is 15.8%.[71]

In 2011 the city of Bath had a population of 88,859.[1] According to the UK Government's 2001 census, Bath, together with North East Somerset, which includes areas around Bath as far as the Chew Valley, had a population of 169,040, with an average age of 39.9 (the national average being 38.6). Demographics shows according to the same statistics, the district is overwhelmingly populated by people of a white background at 97.2% – significantly higher than the national average of 90.9%. Other ethnic groups in the district, in order of population size, are multiracial at 1%, Asian at 0.5% and black at 0.5% (the national averages are 1.3%, 4.6% and 2.1%, respectively).[71]

Rectangular yellow stone building with flat roof and arched doorway.
Christadelphian Hall, New King Street


Climate data for Yeovilton
Average maximum and minimum temperatures, and average rainfall recorded between 1971 and 2000 by the Met Office.
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.1
Average low °C (°F) 1.4
Rainfall mm (inches) 72.0
Source: Met Office

Along with the rest of South West England, Bath has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country.[70] The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C (50.0 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than most of the United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures. The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily maxima of approximately 21 °C (69.8 °F). In winter mean minimum temperatures of 1 or 2 °C (33.8 or 35.6 °F) are common.[70] In the summer the Azores high pressure affects the south-west of England, however convective cloud sometimes forms inland, reducing the number of hours of sunshine. Annual sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of 1,600 hours.[70] In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun recorded at Yeovilton. Most of the rainfall in the south-west is caused by Atlantic depressions or by convection. Most of the rainfall in autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions, which is when they are most active. In summer, a large proportion of the rainfall is caused by sun heating the ground leading to convection and to showers and thunderstorms. Average rainfall is around 700 mm (28 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, and June to August have the lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the south-west.[70]


Water bubbling up from the ground, as geothermal springs, fell as rain on the Mendip Hills. It percolates through limestone aquifers to a depth of between c. 9,000 to 14,000 ft (2,743 to 4,267 m) where geothermal energy raises its temperature to between 64 and 96 °C (c. 147–205 °F). Under pressure, the heated water rises to the surface along fissures and faults in the limestone. The process is similar to an artificial one known as Enhanced Geothermal System which makes use of the high pressures and temperatures in the Earth's crust. Hot water at a temperature of 46 °C (115 °F) rises here at the rate of 1,170,000 litres (257,364 imp gal) daily,[67] from a geological fault (the Pennyquick fault). In 1983, a new spa-water bore-hole was sunk, providing a clean and safe supply for drinking in the Pump Room.[68] There is no universal definition to distinguish a hot spring from a geothermal spring, although by several definitions, the Bath springs can be considered the only hot springs in the UK. Three of the springs feed the thermal baths.[69]

The flood plain of the Avon, on which the city centre is built, has an altitude of about 59 ft (18 m) above sea level.[65] The river, once an unnavigable series of braided streams broken up by swamps and ponds, has been managed by weirs into a single channel. Periodic flooding, which shortened the life of many buildings in the lowest part of the city, was normal until major flood control works were completed in the 1970s.[66]

A iron bridge spanning water. In the background is a yellow stone building. On the left trees reach out over the water.
Cleveland House and the cast iron bridges of Sydney Gardens over the Kennet and Avon Canal

Bath is in the Avon Valley near the southern edge of the Cotswolds, a range of limestone hills designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The hills that surround and make up the city have a maximum altitude of 781 feet (238 metres) on the Lansdown plateau. Bath has an area of 11 square miles (28 square kilometres).[64]

Bath city centre as seen from Alexandra Park
View over Bath city centre from Alexandra Park

Physical geography


The electoral wards of the Bath and North East Somerset unitary authority within Bath are the central Abbey, Kingsmead and Walcot wards, and the more outlying Bathwick, Combe Down, Lambridge, Lansdown, Lyncombe, Newbridge, Odd Down, Oldfield, Southdown, Twerton, Westmoreland, Weston and Widcombe wards.[63]

Before the Reform Act 1832 Bath elected two members to the unreformed House of Commons.[61] Bath is now a single parliamentary constituency, represented by Liberal Democrat Don Foster. His election was a notable result of the 1992 general election, as Chris Patten, the previous Member (and Cabinet Minister) played a major part, as Chairman of the Conservative Party, in re-electing the government of John Major, but failed to defend his marginal seat. Don Foster has been re-elected in every election since. In 2010, his majority was 11883.[62]

Because Bath is unparished, there is no longer a city council or parish council. The City of Bath's ceremonial functions, including the mayoralty – which can be traced back to 1230 – and control of the coat of arms, are maintained by the Charter Trustees of the City of Bath.[59] The coat of arms includes two silver strips representing the River Avon and the hot springs. The sword of St. Paul is a link to Bath Abbey. The supporters, a lion and a bear, stand on a bed of acorns, a link to Bladud, the subject of the Legend of Bath. The knight's helmet indicates a municipality and the crown is that of King Edgar.[60]

Historically part of the county of Somerset, Bath was made a county borough in 1889 independent of the newly created administrative Somerset county council.[57] Bath became part of Avon when the non-metropolitan county was created in 1974. Since the abolition of Avon in 1996, Bath has been the centre of the unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES).[58] Bath remains in the ceremonial county of Somerset, although not within the administrative non-metropolitan county.

Coat of arms showing a shield with two silver wavy lines on a blue background and a brick wall with battlements. In the centre of the shield is a sword. On either side of the shield are a lion and a bear standing on a bed of acorns. Above them is a knight's helmet and crown.
Coat of arms of the City of Bath


Since 2000, developments have included the Bath Spa, SouthGate and the Bath Western Riverside project.[56]

A postwar review of inadequate housing led to the clearance and redevelopment of areas of the city in a postwar style, often at variance with the local Georgian style. In the 1950s the nearby villages of Combe Down, Twerton and Weston were incorporated into the city to enable the development of housing, much of it council housing. In the 1970s and 1980s it was recognised that conservation of historic buildings was inadequate, leading to more care and reuse of buildings and open spaces.[54] In 1987 the city was selected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, recognising its international cultural significance.[55]

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia spent the four years in exile, from 1936 to 1940, at Fairfield House in Bath.[50] During World War II, between the evening of 25 April and the early morning of 27 April 1942, Bath suffered three air raids in reprisal for RAF raids on the German cities of Lübeck and Rostock, part of the Luftwaffe campaign popularly known as the Baedeker Blitz. During the Bath Blitz, more than 400 people were killed, and more than 19,000 buildings damaged or destroyed.[51] Houses in the Royal Crescent, Circus and Paragon were burnt out along with the Assembly Rooms.[52][53] A 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) high explosive bomb landed on the east side of Queen Square, resulting in houses on the south side being damaged, and the Francis Hotel losing 24 metres (79 ft) of its frontage.[52] The buildings have all been restored, although there are still signs of the bombing.[52][53]

The population of the city was 40,020 at the 1801 census, making it one of the largest cities in Britain.[48] William Thomas Beckford bought a house in Lansdown Crescent in 1822, and subsequently two adjacent houses to form his residence. Having acquired all the land between his home and the top of Lansdown Hill, he created a garden more than 12 mile (800 m) in length and built Beckford's Tower at the top.[49]

Looking north-west from Bathwick Hill towards the northern suburbs, showing the variety of housing typical of Bath

Late Modern

In early 18th century, Bath acquired its first purpose-built theatre, the Old Orchard Street Theatre. It was rebuilt as the Theatre Royal, the along with the Grand Pump Room attached to the Roman Baths and assembly rooms. Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash, who presided over the city's social life from 1705 until his death in 1761, drew up a code of behaviour for public entertainments.[47]

[46] Although not fond of politics, Allen was a civic-minded man and member of Bath Corporation for many years. He was elected mayor for a single term in 1742.[46] Allen was responsible for improving and expanding the postal service in western England, for which he held the contract for more than forty years.[46] estate between the city and the mines.Prior Park Allen, to advertise the quality of his quarried limestone, commissioned the elder John Wood to build a country house on his [46] (1694–1764).Ralph Allen, owned by Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines limestone used for construction in the city was obtained from the Bath Stone Much of the creamy gold [45] laid out the new quarters in streets and squares, the identical façades of which gave an impression of palatial scale and classical decorum.his son and John Wood the elder Architects [44]

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