The centre of Bath is dominated by the beautiful Gothic Abbey. You can spend hours just looking at all the intricate carvings on the outside, let alone the interior. There is a regular programme of services and concerts including Christmas Carol Services. Bath Abbey Choir are well known having performed at the Three Tenors for the opening of Thermae Spa and made several recordings.
Bath has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its fantastic examples of Palladian Georgian Architecture. It’s like walking around a film set and it’s amazing how well preserved the historic centre of Bath is. When the Austen Festival is taking place with people walking around the streets in period costume it really is like travelling back in time.
Abbey & Cathedral
Bath Abbey is the stunning gothic church in the middle of Bath. Work started on a Norman cathedral in the 11th century when the abbey was elevated to cathedral status. It took until 1156 to complete and further rebuilding began in 1500 after much of the building had fallen into ruin. It was finally completed in 1611. There has been a church on the site from 757 AD.
You can spend hours just looking at the intricate carvings on the Abbey such as the "heavenly ladder" which represents the dream Bishop Oliver King had in which angels instructed him to rebuilt the church. The interior is as stunning as the exterior with the intricate 16th century ceiling and the huge West Window showing scenes from the Old Testament.
The Abbey also has the Vaults Museum which aims to help the visitor understand the religious tradition of the Abbey site and how this has impacted on Bath as well as preserving and explaining aspects of the Abbey’s architecture. The Abbey is open to visitors but it is still used as a place of worship so it can be closed when services are taking place. A variety of events are held at different times of the year.
The 18th century saw a real boom to the City of Bath. Beau Nash had been appointed Master of Ceremonies (after his predecessor was killed in a duel!). Due to his charismatic nature and promotion of Bath he made the City of Bath something of a social centre for the elite.
It was the place to be seen and grand houses were required to entertain the rich merchant’s and their families and visitors that flocked to Bath in the summer. Architects John Wood the Elder and his son John Wood the YoungeHis vision had been to recreate a classical Palladian architectural landscape throughout Bath. Paradoxically it was only a small proportion Bath’s population that could afford this lifestyle and many of its own residents still lived in poverty and squalor during this time.r were responsible for some of the most iconic architecture of Bath such as The Royal Crescent and The Circus.
The Royal Crescent
The Royal Crescent is actually thirty residential houses that was built between 1767 and 1774. It is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the country. All the houses are identical with 114 ionic columns to the front. These were originally built as private residences for the gentry when they came to town for the season that ran from October to June, but today, although many are still in private ownership, some have been converted into flats.
The Royal Crescent Hotel occupies two of the houses in the centre of the Crescent. No 1 Royal Crescent is a museum that has had its interior recreated to interpret what life would have been like in its heyday. To the west of the Royal Crescent is Royal Victoria Park where launches of hot air balloons take place during the summer.
The Circus is an earlier Wood construction just down the road that was built between 1754 and 1768. It is considered to be John Wood the Elder’s masterpiece whose inspiration was the Roman Colosseum. From the air the Circus together with the Royal Crescent form a giant circle and crescent thought to represent the sun and moon stemming from their interest in the occult and Masonic symbolism. Look out for the Doric frieze near the top of the Circus buildings with tablets depicting various decorative emblems.