Welcome To The City Of Bath
As a visitor to Bath, you are following in the tradition of generations of tourists. Many of the beautiful sights, buildings and places that attract the modern tourist are also those that encouraged some of the first visitors. And some of the present and proposed tourist developments owe their origins to earlier periods of the city’s history.
The original settlers in the area over 2000 years ago, the Celts, would have been in awe of the natural, hot springs that arose out of the mud of the marshy, flood plains. Later, the invading Romans saw the site as a strategic military base, an important junction that could make their army’s incursions easier and quicker. During the early years of Roman occupation, there was probably only a fort, protected by earth ramparts and a wooden fence.
The first township developed as the Romans constructed more buildings: temples for their gods; baths around the hot springs; and barracks and villas for their soldiers. The Romans called the town Aquae Sulis, ‘the waters of Sulis’, a Celtic goddess of healing.
Hot baths were a feature of Roman life, and were often built wherever there was natural, hot, spring water. The water was considered to have healing properties and the baths soon become an important site. The township was a combination of a temple and leisure centre…a concept that is shared by modern visitors.
Aquae Sulis attracted people from all over their Empire: to worship at the temple; to bathe in, and to drink of the healing waters; and to enjoy the spectacle of the natural, hot springs.
When the Romans eventually left, Aquae Sulis fell into disrepair. Walls crumbled and mud piled up in the baths. Some of the stones of the buildings were taken away by local people, to be used in other buildings. Look carefully at some older farm buildings in outlying areas – you might be looking at some Roman remains!
During subsequent periods, a great church and an abbey were built and the town became known as Bathanceaster, attracting pilgrims.
Later, the Normans restored the hot springs and the King’s Bath was built. Once again, people came to bathe in the baths, and the town acquired its present name, Bath.
During the Elizabethan period, tourism became a major contributor to the economy of the town and visitors flocked to Bath to ‘take the waters’ once more.
The 18th century saw its transformation into a prosperous, spa city. Beautiful buildings, using locally-mined stone, resulted in a style that we now recognise as “Georgian architecture”, and have become the major attraction for visitors to the City. The principal architects for this period were: John Wood and his son, also John, who designed The Circus and Royal Crescent, respectively; Robert Adam, who was responsible for the design and build of Pulteney Bridge; and Thomas Baldwin, who designed the Assembly and Pump Rooms, and was responsible for the design of Great Pulteney Street, a wide boulevard of Georgian terraced houses.
During this period, too, Beau Nash, an 18th century ‘dandy’, encouraged prosperous visitors to the city with organised balls and gambling events, even helping to arrange marriages for suitable partners!
So, for generations, visitors have enjoyed the buildings and architecture of the past, and in 1987 the City was given the status of a World Heritage Site.
Steeped in history, it is interesting that some of the modern additions to Bath, such as the Thermae Spa, have their origins in earlier and ancient developments of the city. We look forward to welcoming you to and around Bath where you can experience all this history for yourself!