Monday, March 8, 2010

Bath, England

When I was 14, we were given a school history project to write about a specific era.... even back then I loved Georgian architecture and had no trouble whatsoever in writing page upon page about interiors, exteriors, fashion and lifestyles.

Move forward another 10 years, when I lived in London, we all worked long hours, so weekends were precious.... we'd jump in the car and visit places. Bath being a great destination. It's only 97 miles from London and is full to the brim of all the things I adore: Georgian aritecture, beautiful countryside, fabulous restaurants, gorgeous hotels and cosy pubs.

The city was first established as a spa resort by the Romans in AD 43. They built baths and a temple on the surrounding hills of Bath in the valley of the River Avon around hot springs, which are the only ones naturally occurring in the UK.

Most buildings in Bath are made from the local, golden-coloured Bath Stone, and date from the 18th and 19th 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 and were mainly 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 servants.

"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.

The best known of Bath's terraces is the Royal Crescent, built between 1767 and 1774 and designed by the younger John Wood. 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.
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. Thus, Pulteney Bridge became not just a means of crossing the river, but also a shopping arcade.


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  2. I've just returned from Bath -- this is a wonderful and fascinating overview of the architecture! Thank you so much. I'm currently writing a blog post about the Feng Shui of the Royal Crescent and using one of your photos with a link to your site. Beautiful -- just what I was hoping to find :)

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