Bath, Somerset

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Geography of Great Britain


Coordinates: 51.3794° N 2.367° W

Bath, Somerset (United Kingdom)
Bath, Somerset
Population 84,000
OS grid reference ST745645
Unitary authority Bath and North East Somerset
Ceremonial county Somerset
Region South West
Constituent country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BATH
Postcode district BA1, BA2
Dial code 01225
Police Avon and Somerset
Fire Avon
Ambulance Great Western
UK Parliament Bath
European Parliament South West England
List of places: UK • England • Somerset
City of Batha
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Aerial view over northern Bath from a hot air balloon. The famous Royal Crescent is in the centre.
State Party United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv
Identification # 428
Regionb Europe and North America

Inscription History

Formal Inscription: 1987
11th Session

a Name as officially inscribed on the WH List
b As classified officially by UNESCO

Bath is a city in South West England most famous for its baths fed by three hot springs. It is situated 99  miles (159  km) west of Central London and 13 miles (21 km) south east of Bristol.

The city is founded around the only naturally occurring hot springs in the United Kingdom. It was first documented as a Roman spa, although tradition suggests that it was founded earlier. The waters from its spring were believed to be a cure for many afflictions. From Elizabethan to Georgian times it was a resort city for the wealthy. As a result of its popularity during the latter period, the city contains many fine examples of Georgian architecture, most notably the Royal Crescent. The city has a population of over 80,000 and is a World Heritage Site.


Situation and transport

Bath is located at 51°23′N, 2°22′W. It is approximately 15 miles (25 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. Its main railway station, Bath Spa, lies on the Great Western Railway, the main line between Bristol and London, as well as on the line linking Cardiff with Portsmouth.

Bath 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 among users of narrow boats, and was historically an important water route to London.

Physical geography

Bath is at the bottom of the Avon Valley, and 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 238 m (780 ft) on the Lansdown plateau. It has an area of 11 mile² (29 km²).

Cleveland House and the cast iron bridges of Sydney Gardens over the Kennet and Avon Canal
Cleveland House and the cast iron bridges of Sydney Gardens over the Kennet and Avon Canal

The surrounding hills give Bath its steep streets and make its buildings appear to climb the slopes. The flood plain of the River Avon, which runs through the centre of the city, here has an altitude of 17 metres (56 ft). The river, once an unnavigable series of braided streams broken up by swamps and ponds, has been managed by weirs into a single channel. Nevertheless, periodic flooding, which shortened the life of many buildings in the lowest part of the city, was normal until major flood control works in the 1970s.

The city has the hottest geothermal springs in the UK. Three of these springs feed the thermal baths.


In 2003 the annual mean temperature was 10.3 °C, with extremes at 14.2 °C and 6.5 °C (50.5 °F, 57.5 °F and 43.7 °F, respectively). There were 1645 hours of sunshine, and 957 millimetres of rainfall. The temperatures, sunshine duration and rainfall are higher than the United Kingdom averages (which are 9.5 °C, or 49 °F, 1587 hours and 901.5 millimetres, respectively).


The Liberal Democrat Don Foster is the Member of Parliament for Bath. His election was perhaps the most notable result of the 1992 results, as Chris Patten, the previous Member (and a Cabinet Minister), played a major part, as Conservative Party Chairman, in getting the government of John Major re-elected, but failed to defend his marginal seat in Bath. Don Foster has been re-elected as the MP for Bath in every election since. His majority was significantly reduced from over 9000 in both the 1997 and 2001 general elections to 4638 in 2005.

Historically part of the county of Somerset, Bath was made a county borough in 1889, and has been independent of Somerset county council control ever since. Bath came into Avon when that non-metropolitan county was created in 1974. Since the abolition of Avon in 1996, Bath has been the main centre of the unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES). Bath remains, however, in the ceremonial county of Somerset.

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 now maintained by the Charter Trustees of the City of Bath. The coat of arms includes two silver strips, which represent 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, the first king of a united England, who was crowned in Bath in 973 on the site of the current abbey.


According to the UK Government's 2001 census, Bath, together with North East Somerset (that is, more or less, the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), has a population of 169,040, with an average age of 39.9 (the national average being 38.6). According to the same statistics, the district is overwhelmingly populated by people of a white ethnic background at 97.2% — significantly higher than the national average of 90.9%. Other non-white 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).

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%. Since Bath is known for the restorative powers of its waters, it is interesting to note that only 7.4% of the population describe themselves as "not healthy" in the last 12 months, compared to a national average of 9.2%; only 15.8% of the inhabitants say they have had a long-term illness, as against 18.2% nationally.


Celtic and Roman

The Great Bath at the Roman Baths. The entire structure above the level of the pillar bases is a later reconstruction.
The Great Bath at the Roman Baths. The entire structure above the level of the pillar bases is a later reconstruction.
Bath Abbey From The Roman Baths Gallery
Bath Abbey From The Roman Baths Gallery

The archaeological evidence shows that the site of the Roman Baths' main spring was treated as a shrine by the Celts, and dedicated to the goddess Sulis. The Romans probably occupied Bath shortly after their invasion of Britain in 43 AD. They knew it as Aquae Sulis (literally "the waters of Sul"), identifying the goddess with Minerva. In Roman times the worship of Sulis Minerva continued and messages to her scratched onto metal have been recovered from the Sacred Spring by archaeologists. These are known as curse tablets. These curse tablets were written in Latin, and usually laid curses on other people, whom they feel had done them wrong. For example, if a citizen had his clothes stolen at the Baths, he would write a curse on a tablet, to be read by the Goddess Sulis Minerva, and also, the "suspected" names would be mentioned. The corpus from Bath is the most important found in Britain.

During the Roman period, increasingly grand temples and bathing complexes were built in the area, including the Great Bath. Rediscovered gradually from the 18th century onward, they have become one of the city's main attractions. The city was given defensive walls, probably in the 3rd century. From the later 4th century on, the Western Roman Empire and its urban life declined. However, while the great suite of baths at Bath fell into disrepair, some use of the hot springs continued.

Post-Roman and Saxon

It has been suggested that Bath may have been the site of the Battle of Mons Badonicus (circa 500 AD), where King Arthur is said to have defeated the Saxons, but this is disputed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions Bath falling to the West Saxons in 577 after the Battle of Deorham. The Anglo-Saxons called the town Baðum, Baðan or Baðon, meaning "at the baths," and this was the source of the present name. In 675, Osric, King of the Hwicce, set up a monastic house at Bath, probably using the walled area as its precinct. King Offa of Mercia gained control of this monastery in 781 and rebuilt the church, which was dedicated to St. Peter. Bath had become a royal possession. The old Roman street pattern was by now lost, and King Alfred laid out the town afresh, leaving its south-eastern quadrant as the abbey precinct. Edgar of England was crowned king of England in Bath Abbey in 973.

Norman, Medieval and Tudor

King William Rufus granted the city to a royal physician, John of Tours, who became Bishop of Wells and Abbot of Bath in 1088, with permission to move the seat of Somerset from Wells to Bath, in line with current papal policy of encouraging bishops to move to more urban seats. He planned and began a much larger church as his cathedral, to which was attached a priory, with the bishop's palace beside it. New baths were built around the three springs.

Later bishops preferred Wells, whither the episcopal seat accordingly moved. By the 15th century, Bath's abbey church was badly dilapidated and in need of repairs. Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells, decided in 1500 to rebuild it on a smaller scale. The new church was completed just a few years before Bath Priory was dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII. The abbey church was allowed to become derelict before being restored as the city's parish church in the Elizabethan period, when the city revived as a destination spa. The baths were improved and the city began to attract the aristocracy in the bathing seasons. Bath was granted city status by Royal Charter in 1590.

17th century

The Circus
The Circus

During the English Civil War the Battle of Lansdowne was fought on July 5, 1643 on the outskirts of Bath.

Sally Lunn, (aka Solange Luyon) a Huguenot refugee, came to Bath and found work with a baker in Lilliput Alley (now North Parade Passage), creating the Sally Lunn bun.

In 1668 Thomas Guidott moved to Bath and set up his practice there. He was a student of chemistry and medicine at Wadham College Oxford. He became interested in the curative properties of the waters and in 1676 he wrote A discourse of Bathe, and the hot waters there. Also, Some Enquiries into the Nature of the water.

This brought the health-giving properties of the hot mineral waters to the attention of the country and soon the aristocracy started to arrive to partake in them.

18th century

The Royal Crescent from the air: Georgian taste favoured the civilised regularity of Bath's streets and squares and the delightful contrast with rural nature immediately at hand.
The Royal Crescent from the air: Georgian taste favoured the civilised regularity of Bath's streets and squares and the delightful contrast with rural nature immediately at hand.

There had been much rebuilding in the Stuart period, but this was eclipsed by the massive expansion of the city in Georgian times. The old town within the walls was also largely rebuilt. This was a response to the continuing demand for elegant accommodation for the city's fashionable visitors, for whom Bath had become a pleasure resort as well as a spa. The architects John Wood the elder and his son John Wood the younger laid out the new quarters in streets and squares, the identical facades of which gave an impression of palatial scale and classical decorum. The creamy gold of Bath stone further unified the city, much of it obtained from the limestone Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines under Combe Down, which were owned by Ralph Allen (1694–1764). The latter, in order to advertise the quality of his quarried limestone, commissioned the elder John Wood to build him a country house on his Prior Park estate. A shrewd politician, he dominated civic affairs and became mayor several times.

The early 18th century saw Bath acquire its first purpose-built theatre, pump room 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. However, the city declined as a fashionable resort in the 19th century.

Bath elected two members to the unreformed House of Commons.

19th century

By the 1801 census the population of the city had reached 40,020 making it amongst the largest cities in Britain.
Bath's most well known resident Jane Austen moved to the city with her father, mother and sister Cassandra in 1801. The family remained in the city until 1806 even though her father died there in 1805.
The Austen family lived at 4 addresses in the city gradually sliding downmarket with each move. Whilst Jane Austen is reputed to have not liked Bath, it is probable that she was less happy about being uprooted from a comfortable country existence which she had enjoyed up to that date than she was with the city. She didn't write much whilst living in the city although Bath features centrally in two of her novels 'Northanger Abbey' and 'Persuasion'
Jane Austen's time in Bath and the influence which the city had on her writing is celebrated in a permanent exhibition at The Jane Austen Centre.

In 1822 another of Bath's famous residents moved to the city. William Thomas Beckford bought a house in Lansdown Crescent, eventually buying a further two houses in the Crescent to form his residence. Having acquired all the land between his home and the top of Lansdown Hill, he created a garden over half a mile in length and built Beckford's Tower at the top.

20th century

Between the evening of 25 April and the early morning of 27 April 1942 Bath was subjected to three air raids by the Luftwaffe in reprisal for RAF raids on the German cities of Lübeck and Rostock. The three raids formed part of the Luftwaffe campaign popularly known as the Baedeker Blitz and damaged or destroyed more than 19,000 buildings and killed more than 400 people. Considerable damage was done to noteworthy historical buildings. Houses in the Royal Crescent, Circus and Paragon were burnt out as were the Assembly Rooms while the south side of Queen Square was destroyed. All have since been reconstructed.

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia spent the five years of his exile mainly in Bath at Fairfield House. This period is described in the section headed 'Exile' within the Wikipedia account of the monarch's life ( here).


The Palladian-style Pulteney Bridge and the weir at Bath
The Palladian-style Pulteney Bridge and the weir at Bath

During the 18th century, Bath was an extremely fashionable cultural hub, attracting the aristocracy and gentry from far and wide. This gave the city the finance and incentive to undertake large cultural developments. It was during this time that Bath's Theatre Royal was first built, as well as architectural triumphs such as Royal Crescent, Lansdown Crescent, the Royal Crescent, The Circus and Pulteney Bridge.

Today, Bath has five theatres Bath Theatre Royal, Ustinov Studio, The Egg, the Rondo Theatre, and the Mission Theatre — and attracts internationally renowned companies and directors, including Sir Peter Hall. The city also has a long-standing musical tradition; Bath Abbey is home to the Klais Organ and is the largest concert venue in the city, with about 20 concerts and 26 organ recitals each year. Another important concert venue is the Forum, a restored 1700-seat art deco cinema. The city holds the Bath International Music Festival and Mozartfest every year. Other festivals include the annual Bath Film Festival, Bath Literature Festival, the Bath Fringe Festival and the Bath Beer Festival.

The city is home to the Victoria Art Gallery, the Museum of East Asian Art, and The Holburne Museum of Art, as well as numerous museums, among them The Bath Postal Museum, The Museum of Costume, The Jane Austen Centre, the William Herschel Museum and the Roman Baths. The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, now in Queen Square, and founded in 1824 on the base of a 1777 Society for the encouragement of Agriculture, Planting, Manufactures, Commerce and the Fine Arts, has an important collection and holds a rich and popular programme of talks and discussions. See 'Places of interest' below for details of many other places of artistic, cultural and historical interest.

There are numerous commercial art galleries and antique shops in Bath, which is one of the most important centres of the English antiques trade outside London.

For a list of churches in Bath, see here. In addition to the churches listed, Manvers Gospel Hall is located in the city centre.

Bath in the arts

Perhaps the best known resident of Bath was Jane Austen, who lived in the city from 1801 until 1806. However, Jane Austen never liked the city, and wrote to her sister Cassandra, "It will be two years tomorrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape." Despite her feelings regarding the city, Bath has honoured her name with the Jane Austen Centre and a city walk based on Austen. After leaving the city, Austen wrote two novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (written 1816, published 1818), which are largely set in the city and feature descriptions of taking the waters, social life, and cultural resources such as music recitals.

  • Thomas Gainsborough moved to Bath in 1759, where he first became fashionable amongst the aristocracy and rich, his studio was based in various houses in the city, he subsequently moved to London in 1774.
  • Sir Thomas Lawrence was based in the city from 1782 to 1787 where he first became famous.
  • Charles Dickens' novel Pickwick Papers also features Bath, and satirises its social life. Pickwick takes the waters and his servant, Sam Weller, comments that the water has "a very strong flavour o' warm flat irons", while the Royal Crescent is the venue for a chase between two of the characters, Dowler and Winkle.
  • William Friese-Greene began experimenting with celluloid and motion pictures in his studio in Bath in the 1870s, developing some of the earliest movie camera technology there. He is credited as the inventor of cinematography.
  • Moyra Caldecott's novel The Waters of Sul is set in Roman Bath in 72 AD. Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals is also set in Bath.
  • In 2004, a movie of Thackeray's Vanity Fair was largely filmed in Bath.
  • Roald Dahl's chilling short-story, " The Landlady" also takes place in the city of Bath.
  • In August 2003 the Three Tenors sang at a special concert to mark the opening of the Thermae Bath Spa, a new hot water spa in Bath City Centre; delays to the project meant the spa actually opened three years later on August 7, 2006.


Parade Gardens in July after a rain shower
Parade Gardens in July after a rain shower

The city has several public parks, the main one being Royal Victoria Park, a short walk from the centre of the city. It was opened in 1830 and has an area of 57 acres (231,000 m²). Several events are held in the park every year, including the Bath International Music Festival, and it is favoured as a take-off site by hot air balloon companies. The park features a botanical garden, a large children's play park, and sports facilities, including crazy golf, bowls and lawn tennis. Much of its area is lawn; a notable feature is the way in which a ha-ha segregates it from the Royal Crescent, while giving the impression to a viewer from the Crescent of a greensward uninterrupted across the Park down to Royal Avenue.

Other parks in Bath include: Alexandra Park, which crowns a hill and overlooks the city; Parade Gardens, along the river front near the Abbey in the centre of the city; Sydney Gardens, known as a pleasure-garden in the 18th century; Henrietta Park; Hedgemead Park; and Alice Park. Jane Austen wrote of Sydney Gardens that "It would be pleasant to be near the Sydney Gardens. We could go into the Labyrinth every day." Alexandra, Alice and Henrietta parks were built into the growing city among the housing developments. There is also a linear park following the old Somerset and Dorset railway line.


Sally Lunn's buns (a type of teacake) have long been baked in Bath. They were first mentioned by that name in verses printed in a local newspaper, the Bath Chronicle, in 1772. At that time they were eaten hot at public breakfasts in the city's Spring Gardens. They can be eaten with sweet or savoury toppings.

Visitors sometimes confuse Sally Lunn's buns with Bath Buns — smaller, round, very sweet, very rich buns that 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). The seeds may be replaced by crushed sugar granules or 'nibs'.

Bath has also lent its name to one other distinctive recipe — Bath Olivers — the dry baked biscuits invented by Dr William Oliver, physician to the Mineral Water Hospital in 1740. Oliver was an early anti-obesity campaigner, writing a "Practical Essay on the Use and Abuse of warm Bathing in Gluty Cases". Local legend has it that he bequeathed the recipe for his low calorie biscuits to his coachman, a Mr Atkins, along with £100 and a hundred sacks of flour. Atkins subsequently opened a shop in Green Street, Bath and became a rich man on the proceeds.


The city's best known sporting team is Bath Rugby, a rugby union team which is currently in the Guinness Premiership league and coached by Steve Meeham. It plays in black, blue and white kit with its sponsors' logo, Helphire, on the front of the shirts. The team plays at the Recreation Ground in the city, where it has been since the late 19th century, following its establishment in 1865. The team rose to national prestige during the 1980s, and it has remained one of the best rugby teams in the country. Its first major honour was winning the John Player Cup four years consecutively from 1984 until 1987. The team then led the Courage league for six consecutive seasons, from 1988/1989 until 1995/1996, during which time it also won the Pilkington Cup in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1996. It finally won the Heineken Cup in the 1997/1998 season, and topped the Zürich (now Guinness) Premiership in 2003/2004.

The team's current squad includes several members who also play in the English national elite team including: Steve Borthwick, Lee Mears, Matt Stevens, Olly Barkley, David Flatman and Danny Grewcock. Colston's Collegiate School, Bristol has had a large input in the team over the past decade, providing current 1st XV squad members Barkley, Bell, Brooker, Crockett, Davey, Davis, Delve, Hawkins, Mears and Smith. The former England Rugby Team Manager Andy Robinson used to play for Bath Rugby team and was Captain and later Coach. While in the Bath team, he was a Physical Education, Rugby and Mathematics teacher at King Edward's School, North Road, Bath. Both of Robinson's predecessors, Clive Woodward and Jack Rowell, were also former Bath coaches and managers.

Bath City F.C. and Team Bath F.C. (affiliated with the University of Bath) are the major football teams, both of which are in the Southern Football League. 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. Unlike the city's rugby team, Bath City have never attained an elite status in English football; its highest position has been seventh in the Football Conference in the 1992/1993 season. The University's team was established in 1999, while the city team has existed since before 1908 (when it entered the Western League). Bath City F.C. play their games at Twerton Park. Current players include Scott Partridge, Jim Rollo, Andy Sandell and former South African international goalkeeper Paul Evans.

Cricket is played at the Bath Cricket Club, located, like the rugby Recreation Ground, east of the river, near Pulteney Bridge. The cricket ground is the venue for the annual Bath Cricket Festival which sees Somerset County Cricket Club play several games.

Bath also has a thriving biking community, with places for biking including Royal Victoria Park, 'The Tumps' in Odd Down, the jumps on top of Lansdown, and Prior Park. Places for biking near Bath include Brown's Folly in Batheaston and Box Woods, in Box.

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.

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, swimming, tennis and triathlon.

Bath is also the home of the Bath American Football Club, which has been playing American Football in the city since 2001. It caters for Youth and Junior levels of play.

The Bath Half Marathon is run annually through the city streets, with over 10,000 runners. The City of Bath Triathlon takes place annually at the University of Bath.


The city lies at the junction of the Kennet and Avon Canal and the navigable River Avon. It has a station on the main line from London to Bristol, which was built by the Great Western Railway. At one time, it was also served by the Midland Railway, and by the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway.

Today, its once-important manufacturing sector is much diminished, but it has notable software, publishing and service-oriented industries, in addition to tourism. The magazine publisher Future Publishing is one of Bath's bigger employers. The firm publishes over 100 magazines, including many in the computer and video gaming sector. Other main employers are the Ministry of Defence, although a number of MOD offices have moved to Bristol; the National Health Service, and Helphire Group plc an Accident Management Company specialising in non-fault motor accidents. Bath is also the home of Buro Happold and Future Publishing. The city contains many small single-shop or restaurant-based businesses which serve niche markets and are primarily supported by tourism.


Bath swarms with tourists in the summer. This entertainer performs in front of Bath Abbey and to the right, the Roman Baths
Bath swarms with tourists in the summer. This entertainer performs in front of Bath Abbey and to the right, the Roman Baths

Bath's principal industry is tourism. whose visits mainly fall into the categories of heritage tourism or cultural tourism. All significant stages of the history of England are represented within the city, from the Roman Baths (including their significant Celtic presence), to Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent, to Thermae Bath Spa in the 2000s.

The size of the tourist industry is reflected in the almost 300 places of accommodation—including over 80 hotels, and over 180 Bed and Breakfasts—many of which are located in Georgian buildings and have five-star ratings - a good example being 3 Abbey Green. The city also contains approximately 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.

The tourist season is mainly the summer, though there is a year-round presence of tourists. While many come to Bath to see the city in general, some are attracted to particular aspects of the city, such as the Jane Austen landmarks or the Roman Baths.

The Spa

In 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.

Twinned towns

Bath has four twinned towns:


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, Swansea, 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. The charming Green Park station, was once operated by the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. The line (always steam driven) climbed over the Mendips and served many towns and villages on its 71 mile run to Bournemouth. Sadly this most splendid example of an English rural line was closed by Beeching in March 1966, with few remaining signs of its existence. However Bath Green Park station building survives and now houses a number of shops.

Though Bath does not have an airport, the city is not far from Bristol International Airport, which may be reached by car and by bus or taxi, and by rail via Bristol Temple Meads or Nailsea and Backwell.

National Express operates coach services from Bath to a number of cities. Internally, Bath has a large number of bus routes run by the First Group, with services to surrounding towns and cities. There are two other companies running open top double-decker bus tours around the city.


Fan vaulting over the nave at Bath Abbey, Bath, England. Made from local Bath stone, this is a Victorian restoration (made in the 1860s) of the original roof from 1608
Fan vaulting over the nave at Bath Abbey, Bath, England. Made from local Bath stone, this is a Victorian restoration (made in the 1860s) of the original roof from 1608
Bath Abbey at twilight
Bath Abbey at twilight

Of Bath's notable buildings, Bath Abbey is one of the most striking. Whilst appearing very old, it is of more recent construction than most of Britain's many ancient Abbeys and cathedrals. Originally a Norman church on earlier foundations, it was rebuilt in the early 16th century and transformed into a gothic fantasy of flying buttresses with crocketed pinnacles decorating a crenelated and pierced parapet. The style of architecture employed is known as late Perpendicular. The choir and transepts have a fine fan vault by Robert and William Vertue, who worked on the fan vault at King's College Chapel, Cambridge and designed similar vaulting in the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey. The nave was given a matching vault in the 19th century. The building is lit by 52 windows.

The dominant style of architecture in Bath is Georgian; this evolved from the Palladian 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, and as a result Bath has many fine terraces of what appear to be elegant townhouses. However, the original purpose of much of Bath's fine architecture is concealed by the honey-coloured classical facades; in an era before the advent of the luxury hotel, these apparently elegant residences were frequently purpose-built rooming or lodging houses, where visitors to the city 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. One example of this kind of aspirational deception is found on the north side of Queen Square. This development was designed to appear from the front as a single residence of palatial proportions, but inside seven more modest residences were concealed.

" The Circus" is one of the most splendid examples of town planning in the city. Three long, curved terraces designed by the elder John Wood 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. Like the Coliseum, the three facades 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. Wood never lived to see his unique example of town planning completed, as he died five days after personally laying the foundation stone on May 18, 1754.

Royal Crescent, seen from a hot air balloon. The contrast between the architectural style of the front and rear of this terrace is clear
Royal Crescent, seen from a hot air balloon. The contrast between the architectural style of the front and rear of this terrace is clear

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 facade 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 facade, 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 elegant 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 "all to the front and no rear" architecture occurs repeatedly in Bath.

Around 1770 the eminent 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. Along with the Rialto Bridge, is one of the very few surviving bridges in Europe to serve this dual purpose. It has been substantially altered since it was built. The bridge was named after Frances and William Johnstone Pulteney, the owners of the Bathwick estate for which the bridge provided a link to the rest of Bath.

The heart of the Georgian city was the Pump Room, which, together with its associated Lower Assembly Rooms, was designed by Thomas Baldwin, a local builder who was responsible for many other buildings in the city, including the terraces in Argyle Street. Baldwin rose rapidly, becoming a leader in Bath's architectural history. In 1776 he was made the chief City Surveyor, and in 1780 became Bath City Architect. In 1776 he designed the Bath Guildhall, where his design of the interior produced what is considered one of the finest neo-classical interiors in the country. Great Pulteney Street, where he eventually lived, is another of his finest works: this wide boulevard, constructed circa 1789 and over 1000 ft (300m) long and 100 ft (30m) wide, is one of England's most attractive thoroughfares, and is lined on both sides by Georgian terraces.

Architecturally, Bath is one of the most balanced cities in England, and is an unusual example of coherent town planning combined with well-executed and diverse architectural styles. None the less, 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 The Sack of Bath.

A panoramic view of the Royal Crescent
A panoramic view of the Royal Crescent


Bath has two universities, The University of Bath and Bath Spa University. The former was established in 1966 and has grown to become a leading university in the United Kingdom, present in many top 10 lists and rated as excellent, the highest rating on government scales, in 14 subjects. The university is known, academically, for the physical sciences, mathematics, management and technology. It is also well known for its sports, which it plays under the name Team Bath. In football, Team Bath F.C. was, in the 2002/2003 season, the first university team to reach the FA Cup first round since 1880.

Bath Spa University was first granted degree-awarding powers in 1992 as a university college (Bath Spa University College), before being granted university status in August 2005. 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, and Social Sciences.

The city contains one A-Level college, City of Bath College, and several sixth forms (schools which contain A-Level awarding departments) as part of both state, private, and public schools.

Secondary School Type Results Website
State-funded Schools
Beechen Cliff School boys-only with co-educational sixth form
Culverhay School boys-only with sixth form
Hayesfield School Technology College girls-only with co-educational sixth form
Oldfield School girls-only with co-educational sixth form
Ralph Allen School co-educational with sixth form
St Gregory's Catholic College co-educational with no sixth form
St Mark's CofE School co-educational with no sixth form
Independent Schools
King Edward's School co-educational with sixth form
Kingswood School co-educational with sixth form
Prior Park College co-educational with sixth form
Royal High School girls-only with sixth form

Many notable people, such as Sir Roger Bannister, MP Ann Widdecombe, comedian Bill Bailey, theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh, singer and musician Curt Smith, archaeologist Helen Geake and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, went to school in Bath.

Places of interest

National Trust National Trust
English Heritage English Heritage
Forestry Commission Forestry Commission
Country Park Country Park
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Museum (free)
Museums (free/not free)
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Central Bath
  • Assembly Rooms National Trust Historic house
    • Museum of Costume Non-free museum
  • Bath Abbey
  • Building of Bath Museum Non-free museum Historic house
  • The Circus
  • Great Pulteney Street
  • Holburne Museum of Art Non-free museum Historic house
  • The Jane Austen Centre Non-free museum
  • Museum of Bath at Work Non-free museum
  • Museum of East Asian Art Non-free museum
  • Bath Postal Museum Non-free museum
  • Pulteney Bridge
  • River Avon
  • Roman Baths Non-free museum
  • Royal Crescent
    • No.1 Royal Crescent Non-free museum Historic house
  • Royal Victoria Park and Botanical Gardens
  • Sally Lunn's Refreshment House & Museum Non-free museum Historic house
  • Thermae Bath Spa
  • Victoria Art Gallery Free museum
  • William Herschel Museum Non-free museum
Greater Bath
  • Cleveland Bridge
  • Kennet and Avon Canal
  • Lansdown Crescent
Outskirts of Bath
  • American Museum Non-free museum Historic house
  • Beckford's Tower Non-free museum Historic house
  • Prior Park Landscape Garden National Trust
Near to Bath
  • Battle of Lansdowne
  • Claverton Pumping Station
  • Dundas Aqueduct
  • St Catherine's Court Historic house
  • Solsbury Hill National Trust

Famous Bathonians

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