Whether you visit Bath for a day or several days, your immediate impression may be of having stepped back in time. When seen from one of the surrounding hills, the town looks like an Italian villa, with homes built on terraces and a huge abbey down in the valley. Driving on one of the curved streets will have you realizing something very quickly. All the buildings are made of the same cream-colored stone. Bath stone.
All but one, that is. Tasburgh House is built of red-brick. It’s original owner, John Berryman, was an official Royal photographer to Queen Victoria. Being from Norfolk, where red brick is king, he received permission from the queen to defy the local rule of building with Bath stone and created a house with seventeen bedrooms. Current owner Susan Keeling has transformed Tasburgh House into a 15-room boutique hotel, where comfort and hospitality reign supreme. We are fortunate to be spending two nights here while researching the area for use in a future book or two.
We started our morning with a quick taxi ride into town, where we joined a walking tour hosted by one of the Mayor’s Honorary Guides. These Blue Badge Guides provide a history lesson as well as spend over two hours leading groups all over the city—all for free. So free, in fact, they’re not allowed to accept tips!
The center of all the bustle is Bath Abbey. Since it’s adjacent to the Roman Baths and The Pump Room, there is a crowd around it in the mornings.
Even if you don’t buy a ticket to go the Roman Baths, you’ll get a peek at part of them on the tour. There are other baths in town, as well, and most of them have their origins beneath the pavement of where you’re learning about the Romans building their temple to Minerva, Aquae Survis.
The story of how the thermal springs were first discovered is an even better tale, one we won’t cover but can be found Here. it helps explain why you’ll find references to acorns and pigs throughout the town.
Because we were most interested in the Georgian-Regency aspects of Bath, the areas designed by John Wood the Elder and his son, the Younger, were of the most interest. The Royal Crescent is probably most famous, as images of the thirty houses joined into a crescent are synonymous with Bath. The building on the right is #1 Royal Crescent, a museum set up as a typical Georgian home.
The Circus is another of the Woods’ design, with three crescents of ten homes each forming a circle that’s suppose to have been the Elder’s take on Stonehenge.
There are surprising finds throughout the tour, like the “Lovers Lane” mentioned in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, and how the term “hanging loo” came to be (look for the dark bump out near the corner in the photo to the right).
Another benefit of taking the walking tour is what you’ll see indoors—the Assembly Rooms. Painted in “ballroom blue”, these elegant rooms hosted balls and special events—and still do! Those chandeliers? They’re the second versions, although only because the first versions were taken down shortly after their installation when an “arm” fell off of one of them during a ball.
The pieces of those first chandeliers were put together into one grand chandelier that hangs in another of the rooms (left photo below). It’s nearly eight feet in height.
At the conclusion of the tour, we stayed in the Assembly Rooms building in order to visit the Fashion Museum. This historical presentation of fashion displays 100 featured pieces beginning with the oldest example of a man’s shirt up to a current outfit. We were especially interested in the gowns and menswear from the Regency era.
Our favorites were these. A special exhibit currently features lace.
After the Fashion Museum, we paid a visit to the Roman baths, had high tea at The Pump Room, and shopped a bit before taking a taxi back to Tasburgh House.
Next we’ll be off to Oxford, and we’ll have some stops along the way. More about those in the next post. Ta-ta for now!